First batch of graduates from Indigenous police course

Local Elder Pat Connolly with The Gibbs award winner for outstanding leadership, Andrew Dargan, at Friday’s TAFE graduation.

On Friday, 12 students graduated from the Indigenous Police Recruitment Our Way Delivery Program (IPROWD) at Tumut TAFE, following the completion of the six-month course.

The program, which was first offered in NSW in 2008, was offered in Tumut for the first time this year.

IPROWD supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with joining the NSW Police Force or other justice and emergency services by building skills and preparing them for further study. 

Rob Brown, TAFE NSW IPROWD Project Coordinator, said the course has been “a big plus for the local area”, and that students received “very good results.”

The 24-week course was offered as a blended course. Participants enjoyed a five-week residential school at Tumut TAFE, followed by a week at the NSW Police Force Academy at Goulbourn. The rest of the course was completed online, when and where it suited students.

“We prepare [students] with their confidence, leadership, communication, IT skills, literacy [and] numeracy, and it brings the students to a standard that allows them to apply for further employment,” Mr Brown said.

“Graduates receive great post-course support with things like job applications, and the course has such a huge impact on people’s lives and communities.”

Graduates from the Indigenous Police Recruitment Our Way Delivery Program at Tumut TAFE on Friday.

Speaking about Friday’s graduation ceremony, Mr Brown said “it’s the first time we’ve held a virtual graduation.” All students were in attendance, socially distanced in a classroom, whilst guests and speakers appeared virtually, including Mr Brown.

“It really went well,” he reflected, saying it exceeded all of his expectations.

IPROWD was originally founded as a result of the death in custody of Fiona Gibbs in 1997, whose brother Peter lobbied the Government for a course for Indigenous students to upskill them for entry into the NSW Police Force.

The course has grown and expanded over the last 12 years, now opening pathways to other justice and emergency services.

Because the course was “a big success” in Tumut, Mr Brown said it will be offered again in 2021.

“Any Indigenous student that doesn’t know what they want to do in life, apply for IPROWD, we’ll be around in Tumut again next year,” Mr Brown said.

“It’s a great way for any student to start their career path.”

TAFE NSW Aboriginal Engagement Coordinator Trish Espie-Whitburn said the program provided a “gilt-edged opportunity” for Aboriginal people from across the Riverina to get a running start into a rewarding career. 

“This is the type of opportunity that doesn’t come along very often, and if people grab it by the horns and give it a go, it can literally change their lives,” Ms Espie-Whitburn said. 

“It gives students a great insight into what is expected if they’re going into the emergency services field, but also gives them a pathway to further study.” 

Of the 2020 graduating class, one student is already in the process of joining the NSW Police Force. Others are continuing to pursue entry into the Force, whilst others have their eyes set on other agencies and departments. Post-course support is available for students, including arranging job placements, and assisting with job applications and CV’s.