Language of the law in Springvale

By DANIEL TRAN

NO matter where people are from, they are likely to find someone who speaks their language at Springvale police station.

Officers stationed at Springvale speak almost a dozen languages
between them, meeting the needs of an increasingly multicultural area.

They are using their language skills to help break down
misconceptions and misunderstandings about police and the law,
especially among refugees and other new immigrants.

Victoria Police aims to continue reaching out to all people by
planning forums in languages other than English, including Hungarian,
Punjabi, Farsi, Pashto, Urdu, Spanish, Bosnian and Serbian.

Locals would be encouraged to raise issues of concern, such as personal safety.

Senior Sergeant Alan Dew, of Springvale police, said a forum was a way to form a bond with the community.

“With the Spanish-speaking community around this area, most of
them came over from places like Chile, El Salvador and Argentina where
the police were viewed as a tool of oppressive governments,” he said.

“We’re trying to show them that we’re not that type of police
force. Being able to send someone who speaks their language sort of
humanises us in their eyes.

“Just the fact that they meet and speak to a person in uniform
makes them more accepting of police. I think they get a better
understanding that Australian law is the law [and that] the police are
approachable.”

Police have approached Springvale Neighbourhood House to host the forums.

Neighbourhood house spokeswoman Rosemary McLeod said immigrants
often came from countries where there was conflict with police and the
sessions would allow police to present a “friendly face”.

Senior Sergeant Dew said the need for the program reflected how demographics in the police force had changed.

“We’re much more multicultural than we were 10 to 15 years ago,” he said.

“We’re starting to reflect the
society we serve. There’s quite a few sections of the community in
Springvale and Dandenong that we’re not really connecting with.

“Because of the more diverse
backgrounds of the Victoria Police members, we’re able to try and bridge
those language gaps and be able to find out what they want from us and
what we can do for them.” 

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