NAIDOC Wilkinson
WAPU President Harry Arnott and Superintendent Brian Wilkinson meet ahead of NAIDOC Week.

Returning to the WA Police Force after a ten-year absence and celebrating his first NAIDOC week as Superintendent of the Aboriginal Affairs Division was a special moment for Brian Wilkinson.

Supt Wilkinson joined the WA Police Force in September 1980 as a cadet with his brother Rod, following in the footsteps of his father and two uncles, and is now furthering the Agency’s relationship with Aboriginal communities and developing strong cultural awareness within the Force.

Supt Wilkinson, who is a Yawuru man from Broome, has an extensive background in community policing and strategic policy and has used NAIDOC week to highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion within WA Police.

According to Supt Wilkinson, change cannot just come from the top down, nor can it be mandated.

“Change cannot be a hierarchy-driven approach. What we need to do is get around and win the hearts and minds of the rank and file, that there is an improved way to work with Aboriginal people,” he said.

“I often get asked what I think success would look like. I think that is a WA Police Force that when people look in, they see an inclusive and diverse workforce and organisation that people actually want to come and work for, or they feel comfortable engaging in our services,” he said.

Improving relationships between Aboriginal people and police has been a life-long passion for Supt Wilkinson. He served the Roebourne community after the death of John Pat and Geraldton after the Marine Terrace riots. He also worked in Kalgoorlie, Laverton and was the OIC of Kellerberrin, Katanning and Busselton and finished his policing career in 2009 in the Kimberley District Office.

While Supt Wilkinson may have left his blue shirt behind, his passion for Aboriginal affairs remained as he embarked on the role of Chief Operating Officer for the Aboriginal Affairs Coordinating Committee within Government.

It was there that he made a lasting changes to the service delivery models by Government agencies across Western Australia. A monumental change and challenging decision was his advice to Government to close down the Kimberley’s Oombulgurri community.

“I put up the recommendation to the AACC Director Generals, CEOs and Commissioners to cease Government services to Oombulgurri. I worked on the Cabinet submission to close Oombulgurri and worked closely with Kimberley District Supt Mick Sutherland and the Kimberley Land Council. I sat down with the Elders to see what the trauma was like. They said you have to shut this place down, it’s horrible,” he said.

In recent years, Supt Wilkinson went on to be the Principal Advisor for Aboriginal Strategy at the WA Public Sector Commission and then as the National Manager for the Commonwealth Department of Human Services delivering Centrelink, Child Support and Medicare services.

But it was hearing Commissioner Chris Dawson’s apology to Aboriginal people, seeing changes in WA Police in relation to Aboriginal affairs and feeling a groundswell movement that enticed Supt Wilkinson back into the fold.

“As well as the apology, I was seeing some of the artwork on vehicles and the shirts, I started reading a whole bunch of great things that the Police Force was doing and I thought this organisation has fundamentally changed,” he said.

“At the same time I was a successful job applicant with another Commonwealth agency, so I had choices to make. I asked my wife which of the jobs I should take. She said to go with the job that I loved the most, and so that was easy, it was the Aboriginal affairs role with WA Police. There was always something about policing that was drawing me back home. So I chose this role to head up Aboriginal affairs for WA Police with the hope that all the things we have struggled with before, that we can together transform and continue to do things better.”

Supt Wilkinson said it has been great to reconnect and receive a warm welcome from his Blue Family and is enjoying his time back in the Force.

The theme of NAIDOC Week 2019 is Voice, Treaty, Truth and WA Police is encouraging all employees to share in the rich and diverse culture of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“I would like to see non-Aboriginal people become equally as proud of the culture as Aboriginal people. Not because they have to, but because they want to and realise there is something to celebrate,” Supt Wilkinson said.

Aboriginal Affairs Division Manager and Tjupan / Badimia woman Wanita Bartholomeusz said the WA Police Force was celebrating NAIDOC by sharing stories with its workforce, encouraging stations to celebrate with NAIDOC events and hosting an Agency morning tea.