A new Aboriginal language interpreting app will be rolled out to every Western Australian police officer to try to improve relations between the force and Indigenous communities.
The “Yarning” app allows officers to select from eight Aboriginal languages and play aloud key messages relating to issues including rights in custody and the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s hoped it will improve understanding among Aboriginal people who do not speak English as their first language, particularly those in remote communities.
The app, developed with the assistance of Aboriginal Interpreting WA, will be rolled out to all serving officers from Tuesday.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the app, which had been trialled in WA’s Pilbara region, was the first of its kind in Australia.
“By providing key messages in Aboriginal languages we are being fair and showing the care we have for that community,” he said on Tuesday.
“The app has the ability to be scaled up to include new messaging, which means we can get critical key messages, for example in emergency situations, in the hands of police officers to share with Aboriginal communities quickly.”
Development is underway to add a further three languages.
WA Police said the app had been endorsed by senior Aboriginal community members and agencies including the Aboriginal Legal Service.
Police Minister Paul Papalia said it would provide a quality interpretive service for “every Aboriginal language and dialect in the state”.
“The use of this app will strengthen relationships between police and the Aboriginal community by enhancing respect and understanding for Aboriginal people and their culture,” he said.
Mr Dawson formally apologised to Aboriginal people in 2018 for their history of mistreatment by police, promising to take steps to “heal historical wounds”.
Thousands protested in Perth in 2020 against Aboriginal deaths in custody, including that of Ms Dhu, a Yamatji woman who died in 2014 after being locked up in South Hedland for unpaid fines.
She was later found to have been treated inhumanely.
More than 780 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are identified in the Gambay interactive map published by First Languages Australia.
About 20 are used daily by fluent speakers, according to the group.