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Foundation Day recognises the contribution of trackers

28 Apr 2019 12:15pm

SA Police wish to advise that the following content may cause distress to members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities. It may contain images of, or references to, deceased persons.

This year’s SA Police (SAPOL) Foundation Day ceremony acknowledged the contribution that Aboriginal trackers and Police Aides have made to the police and wider South Australian community.

An event held today at Tandanya, the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, commemorated the establishment of the SA Police by Governor Hindmarsh on 28 April 1838.

The Commissioner of Police Grant Stevens said he was proud to celebrate the close working relationship between police and Aboriginal people.

“SAPOL values the contribution and support provided by the Aboriginal community and the dedication, skill and perseverance of Aboriginal trackers,” he said.

“Trackers are famed for using their bush skills to spot subtle changes in the environment that reveal the path a person has taken in often harsh and remote areas.”

Records reveal that in 1852 there were 16 Aboriginal trackers employed by SAPOL with this number rising over time to more than 65.

Today’s ceremony marked the beginning of a photographic exhibition at Tandanya, open to the public until 7 June, which recognises some of the important work undertaken by these men.

Among those highlighted in the exhibition is one of the most famous trackers in the state, Jimmy James. Mr James worked closely with SAPOL for about 40 years using tracking skills and instincts honed by generations of Pitjantjatjara men to locate scores of murderers, prison escapees and missing people.

Mr James (pictured), who in 1984 was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to policing and the community, worked on 104 different cases with SAPOL.

In 1986 the Aboriginal Police Aide Scheme commenced in the state’s remote north, with four trained Aboriginal Police Aides issued with regular police uniforms, given full police powers and based within the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

In 1990 the scheme was expanded to include selected urban and major regional country centres, with the name changed to Community Constable six years later.

There are now 36 Community Constables based throughout South Australia, joining the 44 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women employed as sworn police officers with SAPOL.

NOTE: A Foundation Day ceremony is held each year by SAPOL to commemorate the formation of the organisation, the first centrally controlled colonial, and then state, police service in Australia and third oldest in the world.