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Copwatch: Australia’s First Community Accountability Project

Copwatch – Australia’s First Community
Accountability Project Ready to Roll

21 August 2017 – For Immediate Release

Australia’s first-ever Copwatch workshop will take place in Broken Hill today, Monday 21 August, organised by The National Justice Project (NJP).

Copwatch will empower Aboriginal youth to use their smartphones to document police interactions. The program encourages people to lawfully and effectively use video for evidence and in campaigns for justice and accountability.

NJP Principal Solicitor George Newhouse said today: “We are launching the Copwatch program in Broken Hill because of the overwhelming demand from the local community. We are looking forward to offering legal advice and media skills to the participants.”

“Copwatch will give Aboriginal people the tools to publicly expose misconduct and keep police accountable. We believe that relations between the police and Aboriginal people can be improved through this process. It gives Aboriginal people a chance to document their experiences and show the rest of Australia what life is like in these communities. Research shows that all parties behave better when they know they are being filmed.”

"Video technology is cheaper than ever, and most people carry cameras on them all the time. Citizen video is compelling and the possibilities are endless. It can be used to record police encounters, for environmental campaigns, and to document housing problems. Transparency discourages misconduct and improves decision-making and governance."

“We are excited to bring our team of human rights lawyers and media professionals to Broken Hill. We look forward to working with Aboriginal people, and getting their feedback,” said Newhouse.

Des Jones, the Chairperson of Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly, said, “We have real concerns about the intimidation and harassment of Aboriginal youth. NSW Police seem to be targeting local Aboriginal children – it feels like they are being discriminated against. We want a better relationship with police but we feel we are being ignored when what we really need is engagement.”

“Our complaints have been met with a cut and paste response from the NSW Police. We are excited by Copwatch, because video evidence will help to ensure that the police will take our complaints seriously,” said Jones.

Copwatch also aims to build relationships between local Aboriginal people and journalists, so participants can use video to advocate for social change and make their voices heard.

Darumbal and South Sea Islander journalist Amy McQuire, who is traveling with Copwatch, said: “Policing in regional NSW has always been really problematic, there’s always been a tense relationship between Aboriginal communities and police. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of awareness about the issues that these communities face, and often they’re very ill-served by the media. This is an opportunity to give Aboriginal communities a bit of empowerment, and the tools when things do happen to fight back. I think Copwatch will be a good opportunity to teach Aboriginal communities about their rights.”

Further workshops are scheduled in Redfern, Alice Springs and Kalgoorlie. An additional 16 groups across the country have also requested Copwatch workshops.

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