West Australian Police Fight Fire With… World Class Racism

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UPDATE: A police response is printed below. WAPOL have deleted the tweet but denied it was targetted specifically at Aboriginal people. We’ve sent a third email to Police Media asking exactly who WAPOL have described as “animals”.

On New Years Day, Shark Bay Police in the Gascoyne region of Western Australian made a shocking discovery. On a beach somewhere, someone had lit a campfire. Yes, a campfire!

Serious criminal offences, like campfires and jaywalking, obviously require serious, unequivocal responses from authorities… on their Twitter accounts… and why not throw in some racism, just to make sure the message isn’t missed. Along with some bad spelling.

Behold!

WA-police-shark-bay-tweet

As evidence goes, there doesn’t appear to be any that Aboriginal people – clearly the intended target of the tweet – lit the campfire. But a lack of evidence has never stopped WA Police in the past. As for the ‘#animals’ part… comment below on your thoughts. And add the hashtag #wapoliceracism and let’s see if we can’t make that sting a little bit.

Meanwhile, here’s some pictures from the festive season in Melbourne, where Aboriginal people trashed St Kilda Beach… oh wait, sorry, non Aboriginal people.

St-Kilda-beach-trashed-2 St-Kilda-beach-trashed

New Matilda has sent an email to WA Police media, and we’re awaiting a reply. In the meantime, might be worth remembering that WA Police have helped create the highest Indigenous jailing rate on earth… literally on earth… with a jailing rate of black males that is more than eight times greater than the jailing rate of black males in South Africa in the dying days of the Apartheid era.

UPDATE: WA Police have responded claiming the tweet wasn’t about Aboriginal people. See their response below.

The original post on Twitter by Shark Bay Police was targeted at a very specific group of people, known to be publicly associated with environmental matters, and with no links to the indigenous community. There are specific references to that group that they would be aware of. The beach bonfire occurs each New Year’s Eve, to the frustration of those local police. They are investigating the matter and wanted the local community to be aware of this issue. The Twitter feed is intended for the local Shark Bay community, and was carried across to the District Facebook page as a warning about total fire bans, as a responsible public awareness measure. It has since been removed from Facebook as the message was being misconstrued by a wider audience unaware of the local issues. 

The term “animals” is one publicly used by the group in question, and this would be known to the local community, so they would be aware who the police were referring to. It remains the subject of a police investigation, so no further details will be provided. The District Inspector has personally spoken to the officers concerned and highlighted the unintended perception of the tweet to those outside the Shark Bay area. They have been counselled on responsible social media usage and considerations, and the messages have been removed so as not to exacerbate the misunderstanding. The officers identified the people involved in the bonfire and the Inspector has satisfied himself the tweet was not directed at Aboriginal people, as you have wrongly insinuated.

Shark Bay Police cover a large area, and New Year’s Eve is generally one of the busiest nights in the state. They need to rely on community cooperation to behave responsibly, and constantly liaise with that community to promote this. There are higher priorities than guarding a beach in case people do the wrong thing.

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Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.

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