2017 Public Advocate's Awards
Police honoured for outstanding service to people with disability
A constable credited with literally saving the life of a vulnerable woman, a sergeant who initiated and coordinated supports for a person experiencing frequent mental health issues in the community, and a team that sensitively handled the challenging task of interviewing children with disability who had experienced sexual abuse, are among the police members honoured in the 2017 Public Advocate's Outstanding Service to People with Disability Awards.
Pictured (from left): Assistant Commissioner Tess Walsh, Acting Chief Commissioner Andrew Crisp, Amanda Lawrie-Jones (HR Professional and Senior Disability Consultant), Deputy Commissioner Wendy Steendam, Acting Public Advocate John Chesterman.
Acting Public Advocate John Chesterman and Acting Chief Commissioner Andrew Crisp presented the awards at Victoria Police's International Day of People with Disability event, held on Friday 1 December at River’s Edge Events, World Trade Centre.
Overall award - Ben Bodna Award for Exceptional Leadership - Assistant Commissioner Tess Walsh
Among her many other roles, Assistant Commissioner Walsh is chair of the Victoria Police Disability Portfolio Reference Group.
This group, which includes representatives of peak disability bodies and community organisations, meets quarterly to provide advice, expertise and feedback to assist Victoria Police in their engagement with diverse communities.
Members of the Victoria Police Disability Portfolio Reference Group told us that Assistant Commissioner Walsh supported and encouraged them to speak freely and openly about the impact disability has on day to day life.
They appreciated the opportunity to have their needs acknowledged, understood and respected, as well as learning more about police work and processes.
Police nominated award - Sergeant John Hollis
By his determined patience, professionalism and empathy, Sergeant John Hollis from Transit East 2, Oakleigh Police, has been able to provide invaluable assistance and support to a person experiencing frequent mental health issues in the community.
This individual had a substantial history of police contacts as a result of their mental health. Police records show the individual was transferred for a mental health assessment some 53 times, including 21 times between July 2015 and October 2017.
In order to address this, Sergeant Hollis initiated a Priority Target Management Plan, coordinating police and mental health services to address the needs of the person.
It is difficult to overstate what a positive impact this has had.
Since the plan was implemented there has been a dramatic change in the individual’s mental health, and there has not been a single incident requiring a mental health transfer.
Not only has this been significant for the person’s safety and wellbeing, Sergeant Hollis’ initiative has created a safer environment for police members and meant that police resources can be utilised elsewhere.
It has also dramatically improved the mental health of the person’s immediate family, as they are no longer receiving late night or early morning calls from police members.
Community nominated Award - Senior Constable David Grealish
Senior Constable Grealish provided outstanding care and support for a female client with severe intellectual disability, multiple mental health diagnoses and a substance abuse disorder.
The client was extremely vulnerable to exploitation and victimisation, and her offending behaviour was escalating.
Senior Constable Grealish advocated for the client within the justice system to ensure her safety and right for support services to engage with her.
He worked closely with the client’s multi-disciplinary care team, who soon realised that he had the same goals for the client as they did – which were for her to address her issues and stop repeating the cycle of high risk behaviour.
He regularly visited the client with her father, reinforcing the need for her to engage with services.
As a result of Senior Constable Grealish’s intervention, the client has made significant progress and not breached a family violence intervention order in many months.
The client’s guardian told us that it was very likely that she was only alive today because of Senior Constable Grealish’s ongoing work with her.
Community nominated Award - Melbourne Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team
The Melbourne Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) undertook a protracted investigation into child abuse at an education facility.
This involved interviewing 10 victims who were at the school about events which had allegedly occurred over a three-year period.
All the victims were deaf and non-verbal, and most had cognitive disability.
Each interview took many hours and was conducted across a period of months.
Five separate ITPs from the Office of the Public Advocate provided support during these interviews, and all were very impressed by the sensitivity demonstrated by the SOCIT team.
The SOCIT team members treated the children with the utmost respect and made the children, as far as possible, comfortable and able to speak about what had happened to them.
It was an extremely confronting, unhappy situation but was made so much better by the caring work of the SOCIT team.
(Picture: Senior Constable Bilal Teffaha from Melbourne SOCIT with Acting Chief Commissioner Andrew Crisp)
Metropolitan Station Award - Box Hill Police Station
Independent Third Person volunteers who nominated Box Hill Police Station said it is a very busy large complex that totally embraces the ITP program and treats ITPs in a friendly and dignified way.
They reported that members at Box Hill have a very good understanding of the requirements regarding questioning of people with disability and those with mental health issues.
And in all cases the members treat people with disability with patience, sympathy and care, whether they be suspects, victims or witnesses.
The volunteers reported that police members always called an ITP if they had any concerns about the person they wanted to interview, even if the Police LEAP system did not indicate that an ITP needed to be contacted.
They also said Box Hill police members responded positively to any concerns raised by the ITP, to ensure the interest of the client, even when it entailed extra work for them.
One ITP told us that almost every time he attends Box Hill, he departs feeling proud of the humane way the police had treated alleged perpetrators as well as victims with disability.
Another ITP told us that every time she receives a call to Box Hill, she feels that she is going to a station where she is known and will be treated with respect for the work she does.
(Picture: Sergeant Jacki Dixon with Acting Chief Commissioner Andrew Crisp)
Rural Station Award - Bendigo Police Station
Bendigo is the third largest user of Independant Third Person volunteers in Victoria and the second largest among rural or regional stations.
Last year, ITP volunteers were called to 126 interviews at the station. This shows a good awareness of the crucial role.
The volunteers told us that members at Bendigo Station always treat people with disability in a caring way, and ensure the person totally understands the process and their rights.
One ITP said he regularly heard members ask interviewees if they understand, if they have had their medicine, if they need a drink or if they are ready to be interviewed.
They told us that ITPs are made to feel appreciated at the Bendigo Station and anything they suggest about the person to be interviewed has always been taken into consideration.
In addition, they demonstrated great concern for the safety and wellbeing of ITPs who attended challenging and traumatic interviews.
(Picture: Senior Constable Andrew Segal, Acting Senior Sergeant Lee Lester and Acting Chief Commissioner Andrew Crisp)
- Detective Senior Constable Jen Beha, Sale Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team, who was instrumental in pursuing a successful prosecution against a man charged with the rape of a woman with intellectual disability.
- Natale Cutri, current Chair and founding member of the Employee Accessibility Advocacy Network, for his passionate and tireless work to improve opportunities for people with disability at Victoria Police, raise awareness, and create cultural change.
- Detective Sergeant Tony Breen, from Family Violence Command, whose passionate delivery of the Sexaul Offences and Child Abuse Investigation course, has changed the mindset of investigators when dealing with people with disability, enabling investigators to provide better communication options and gain an understanding of how to help people with disability report crime and achieve suitable outcomes.
- Inspector Adrian Richards who assisted an employee with disability to continue to meaningfully contribute to Victoria Police by creating a new role that utilised the skills and experience of the employee while considering his disability.
- Senior Constable Stuart Deitz, Box Hill Police, for the level of response, dedication and empathy provided to a person with disability who had been assaulted by one of his carers.
- Knox Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team, for their sensitive and caring response to a traumatic sexual assault of a 13-year-old boy where all parties – victim, offenders and witnesses – had intellectual disabilities.
- Victoria Police Soccer Club, for their work with Doveton Special Soccer School in playing matches, participation in events, assistance with training and coaching and fundraising. This has provided people with disability and their families with significantly greater access, heightened levels of inclusivity and an engaged level of responsiveness from Victoria Police into the broader community.
- Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Unit, for developing and delivering a Victoria Police Manual and Practice guide for reasonable workplace adjustment.
- The Autism Safety Strategy, Eastern Region, which led to the development of an identity card and lanyard that can be worn by autistic people describing the wearer’s disability and needs when using public transport to travel to school, work and recreation activities.