By HARRY CLARKE
INDIGENOUS Australian colours have taken pride of place outside the Miles Police Station as local officers celebrate NAIDOC Week by raising the First Nations flag permanently and also welcoming the town’s first Aboriginal cop.
After years as an officer based in Rockhampton, Senior Constable Jason Iles last month traded the Capricorn region for the Western Downs after a bad situation turned into a good opportunity.
“I knew Vern, the local sergeant here in Miles, from when I was in Blackwater, and I happened to run into him when my young fella had a traffic crash in Wandoan,” Iles said.
“Thankfully he wasn’t injured badly, but he had to come back to Miles to see the doctor and I saw Vern at the hospital.
“He said there was a spot opening at the police station in Miles. I was looking for something different so I decided to come here.”
“I’ve worked in country stations before and I like that sort of work. This is the first time I’ve actually spent time in Miles and I’m enjoying it. It’s a nice, friendly, country community but it’s cold!”
Relocating to Miles has almost been a return to Iles’s ancestral home. His tribe are the Iman people, who belong to the Upper Dawson region including Taroom and Wandoan.
“It’s great to be the first Aboriginal police officer in Miles and celebrating NAIDOC Week is very important to me. My family has always celebrated NAIDOC Week,” he said.
Iles’s arrival in Miles comes as local police celebrate the success of its ongoing Look to the Stars program, a statewide initiative by the Queensland Police Service aimed to foster mutual understanding and respect between officers and the Indigenous community.
To mark NAIDOC Week, Sergeant Werner “Vern” Crous arranged for new flagpoles to be installed outside Miles Police Station and for the Australian, Torres Strait Islander, Queensland and Aboriginal flags to be raised permanently.
“The Look to the Stars program focusses on enduring respect and the communication lines being open between the police and First Nations people.
“It’s a project we’ve been working on for a while and it’s culminated today with the flags being raised.
“Raising the Aboriginal flag is a symbol of the progress that we’re making between healing from the past and leading into the future.”
Fundamental to the Look to the Stars program have been local Aboriginal elder Aunty Robin Derksen (Kamilaroi) and Goolburri CEO Gary White (Kullilli) from Dalby.
“I am proud to be part of the flag raising. I welcome our First Nations police officer and his family to Miles and hope they enjoy their new home here,” Aunty Robin said.
“We have an excellent relationship with the police and I think of them as family. I will always welcome them into my home and I know I am welcome when I come here to the police station, especially when I bring my cakes.”