Over the weekend, it was announced that Australia's first original and independent tribal Lore Enforcement had been established in the towns of Bourke and Enngonia just near the Darling River in NSW. This is a triumphant step in the right direction for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have long recognised that police intervention often makes First Nation communities less safe.
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At the helm of the new system is Muruwari and Budjiti man, Bruce Shillingsworth and his son Bruce Jnr. As an artist and activist Bruce Snr. has championed the needs of First Nations communities, more recently with his grassroots Waters for Rivers campaign that calls for more responsible management of Australia's waterways. The announcement was made on Instagram with an image that shows Bruce Snr. standing in front of a white and purple-checkered Hyundai with the banner 'LORE ENFORCEMENT' written across its' side.
What does this new system involve? As reported by Ngaarda Media, it's been established that local police will take a step back in some areas of crime in Bourke and Enngonia - an area notoriously over-policed - and instead pass over decision-making to local elders who are better equipped to handle these matters. Both Bruce Snr. and Bruce Jnr. are outfitted with nothing but a bodycam, notepad and pen; ushering in a new era of non-violent, community intervention that is based off of cultural and social knowledge.
In an interview with Ngaarda Media, Bruce Shillingsworth further explained. "This is a step in a direction, to regain or rebuild back from that damage that's been done over the last 230 plus years."
"External entities that feel that they're obligated to come in and take control of the issue...but we know that that's making it worse due to you know, incarceration rights, statistics on family violence, removal of children and all that kind of stuff", he said. "As we know elders and community members have not been given the autonomy to deal with these situations themselves and with autonomy, our elders being able to sit down and be listened to."
"The other thing is because elders and people live within the community, there's a something there, a special characteristic that then they're able to see certain indicators of possible violence or family violence or domestic violence before they come to fruition, because they're in community, they know their families."
With at least 475 Aboriginal deaths while in police custody since the findings of the 1987 Royal Commission released its findings in 1991, this is an overdue measure towards reconciliation and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of First Nations people in so-called Australia.