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BY Jessica Cuthbert 

This year, Midland Police worked closely with students building relationships between Aboriginal communities and police. 

In partnership with La Salle College and Midland PCYC, the program aimed to improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal youth from remote communities and help build a rapport between them and police officers. 
Students from Balgo, a remote Aboriginal community located in the south-east Kimberley region, regularly board at La Salle College, however this year they had the opportunity to engage with officers in a fun environment. 
Once a week, students would meet with police at the Midland PCYC and participate in recreational activities.
Officers were often challenged to a game of basketball or soccer with the students or enjoyed a jamming session on the drums.  
Midland Police Station OIC Senior Sergeant Jason Van der Ende said the program was successful in improving self-esteem, building trust and relationships and breaking down barriers. 
He said it had been a wonderful and rewarding year for both the students and the officers.
“Most of these officers have never really had the opportunity to experience different cultures and interact with kids from regional and remote areas so this was really great for them,” he said. 
“We hope there are good relationships between the residents and police in remote communities but if not that’s what we are here for - to break some of those barriers down and build up the trust. Some of these kids are from communities so remote they rarely see Police.” 
Sen. Sgt Van der Ende said the program was a great experience for him due to his personal connection to the Kimberley. 
“I previously worked up in the Kimberley so a lot of the students were actually related to people I knew in Halls Creek, so it was really nice to meet them,” he said. 
“I met a brother and sister in the program and straight away I saw a family resemblance to their grandmother whom I knew from up there - it keeps that relationship alive and that’s a really great thing.”
He said at the start of the year, the students were hesitant to engage with police but during the course of the program they had really opened up to officers. 
“We set out to build relationships and increase the trust between these kids and the police and that’s exactly what happened – we made friendships,” he said. 
Sen Sgt Van der Ende said his officers went above and beyond to ensure the program was a success and made the students feel comfortable while having fun. 
“First Class Constable Simon Tran taught the students how to play the drums. He would go down there in his own time and work with them. He was committed to the program.”
“Senior Constable Trish Bilbrough was also instrumental in the success of this program. She worked hard building up relationships with the schools so these kind of programs can be possible.”
To celebrate the end of the program, Midland Police and the students bid farewell at a ceremony before they returned home to their communities.
Students prepared a musical performance showcasing their drumming skills with their new personalised drum sticks gifted by Midland Police. 
Police Commissioner Chris Dawson and Police Minister Michelle Roberts also attended the ceremony and acknowledged the great work of all involved. 
Following their performance, the students presented the Midland Police Station with some artwork depicting the strong relationship between themselves, their individual communities and police.
Sen. Sgt Van der Ende said the year had been a total success. 
“I think we have certainly improved the relationship between these kids and police and hopefully that’s something they will take back home with them,” he said.  
“These students are the next generation so hopefully when they grow up these relations can continue to grow.” 
Midland Police work hard to improve relationships and build partnerships with the high schools in the area, often visiting schools, engaging with students and supporting teachers and principals with at-risk students.
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Students presented the Midland Police Station with some artwork
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Police Commissioner Chris Dawson and Police Minister Michelle Roberts attended the ceremony