IN an emotional ceremony in the new TAFE Aboriginal learning centre yesterday, a group of young Aboriginal men and women told how their lives had been changed forever.
The 15 young people who have graduated from the Western Institute of TAFE IPROWD course are now eligible to pursue a career in the NSW Police Force. To complete the course they had to re-engage with maths, English, computers and Aboriginal culture to give them sufficient entry skills to apply to the Goulburn Police Academy.
Tears flowed as many of the students spoke of being inspired by their tutors, including police officers, and their fellow classmates to achieve something they never thought was possible.
Co-ordinator of the IPROWD program for Aboriginal people, Peter Gibbs, told his own emotive story of his family’s early involvement with police.
“My sister died in police custody,” he said.
However, he said he was proud his family had devoted itself to implementing the program with federal and state agencies to encourage more young Aboriginal people to become police officers.
“What we have here today is social change and I am so proud of them all,” Mr Gibbs said.
“This course is about the Aboriginal community and police learning from each other,.”
Mr Gibbs said the TAFE course relied heavily on the assistance of police in Orange, including Senior Constable Leon Lincoln and Sergeant Garry Shiels, and Aboriginal community liaison officer Glen Sutherland.
“Garry Shiels is a truly remarkable man and we will be sad to see him retire - he has given so much of himself to these young people,” Mr Gibbs said.
The IPROWD course is run jointly through the Orange and Dubbo TAFE campuses.
Mr Gibbs said many of the young people who graduated from the course had become disengaged in the education system and had left school early without the skills to get them a career in the NSW Police Force.
Member for Orange Andrew Gee, who represented NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher yesterday, said the young people could make a difference bridging the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous when they eventually graduate as police officers.
“On behalf of the whole community I congratulate you and the people who have supported you,” he said.
“TAFE also needs to be congratulated for its initiative.”
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said he had attended several IPROWD graduation ceremonies and they were always emotional.
“For many of these young people it is the first educational certificate they have ever received and it is a real sense of achievement,” he said.
Graduating were Cameron Dennis, Shannon Sheedy, Kyle Soriter, Dean Cooke, Jeremy Everingham, Corey Ashby, John Weeks, Rebecca Naden, Brianna Wilson, Juanita Keed, Racqual Frappell, Julieanne Sloan, Sara Cusack, Steven Williams and Keith Woods.