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1993 award winners

Main award winner: The Kullarri Patrol

The Selection Board voted the Kullarri Patrol the main winner of the 1993 Violence Prevention Award, for the comprehensiveness of its work and the breadth of community support and enthusiasm for its efforts.

Based in Broome in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia, the Patrol is a mobile unit, operating on foot or out of a vehicle, both day and night. It seeks to defuse potentially violent situations which may involve intoxicated people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. The members of the Patrol are local Aboriginal people who are able to bring their knowledge of family relationships and culturally appropriate interventions in conflict situations to assist with the resolution of problems.

The Patrol was designed to implement some of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Domestic violence, alcohol induced violence, truancy, homelessness, substance abuse, suicide and underage drinking are some of the problems targeted.

The Patrols prevent or resolve problems before they require the intervention of the criminal justice system, by defusing problems before they escalate into violent conflict and supporting those who are not able to protect themselves because of lack of physical strength or intoxication.

Many Aboriginal women who were victims of domestic violence did not report their problems because they were reluctant to involve the police. Because the Patrol now includes women members, however, domestic violence victims feel more comfortable in asking for help. The Patrol also assists such women to escape violence and find shelter in the women's refuge, ensures that victims receive medical attention where necessary, and tries to encourage perpetrators of violence to access counselling or other appropriate support.

Other forms of practical support which the Patrol provides include transportation for intoxicated people from licensed premises to a safe place; and for injured victims of violent conflict to hospital and, after treatment, from the hospital to a safe place.

The Patrol was the joint initiative of the Kullarri Regional Council, the Mallingbarr Aboriginal Community, the Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community and the local Broome Police. Begun in 1992, the Patrol has very broad support from a wide range of commercial and community organisations. This support is demonstrated in a tangible form through ongoing donations from local businesses and other interested agencies, including the Broome Shire Council.

The Patrol functions as a key link between a range of community organisations, which together provide an inter linking network of services. Other members of the network include the Marnja Jarndu Women's Refuge, the Pitakarri Counselling Services, Milliya Rumurra Alcohol Rehabilitation and Catherine House crisis accommodation service. Members also support other Aboriginal workers who are trying to promote better community relationships. For example, the Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community has initiated a Warden System to promote "No Alcohol Zones" within the community. Patrol members are able to offer support, training and counselling skills to these Wardens.

The Kullarri model has attracted a great deal of interest from other communities in the Kimberley and further afield. Similar patrols are being established in Derby, based upon the Broome strategy. The Western Australian Minister for Police and the State Ministry of Justice have also displayed a keen interest in the model. Media attention has lead to requests for information about the project from all over Australia.

Local police report that members of the Patrol have developed a very professional style. They receive training from police officers in methods of dealing with aggressive or intoxicated clients. The police themselves request Patrol intervention to deal with some situations and, in turn, Patrol members may request police back-up if they do not receive cooperation from intoxicated clients. The existence of the Patrol has also influenced policing practices in Broome, and has resulted in an improved relationship between the police and Aboriginal residents.

Staff at the local hospital have found that the number of people requiring treatment for alcohol related injuries has decreased and that the types of injuries are now less serious than before the Patrol began. They have also found that those in need of treatment are brought in more promptly, resulting in quicker recovery.

Apart from the immediate impact upon alcohol related problems, the success of the Kullarri Patrol has vastly improved the relationship between members of the Broome community. A renewed sense of personal and community pride has evolved. In some instances, those who have become effective Patrol members had previously themselves been victims of alcohol-related violence or despair. Clients of Milliya Rumurra sometimes participate in the Patrols as part of the alcohol rehabilitation program.

Operating on a shoe-string budget, the Patrol is funded by the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) under the auspices of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). Effectively, this means that Patrol members are paid the same amount they would receive if they were unemployed. Minimum running costs are met from donations from local organisations and businesses. The blue tee-shirts worn by Patrol members were donated by a local shop, for example, and hoteliers have donated money for petrol for the van. At the time of writing, Kullarri was actively lobbying for funds to establish a Safe House or Sobering-Up Shelter to assist them in their outreach work.