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Hopes for Redfern Police Command of long-term Chippendale resident

In the April 2006 issue of the South Sydney Herald Dorothy McRae-McMahon intervied the Redfern Police Commander Catherine Burn.

Catherine Burn, the recently appointed Commander to Redfern Police Local Area Command is no stranger to the area. She began living in Chippendale as a teenager and, apart from a brief time away in Glebe, has lived there ever since. She comes to Redfern after a distinguished 22 year career in the NSW Police. For 16 years she was a specialist with NSW Criminal Investigation and then became the Local Area Commander for Burwood.

After a brief period in Central Command she was moved into Redfern to lead its 200 staff.

Quite apart from enjoying walking around its streets over many years, Catherine had some picture of the state of Redfern Policing when she participated in the NSW Parliamentary Enquiry after the “Redfern riots”. In helping to prepare the submission, she gained insights into the history, structure and strategy involved in the work in the area.

As the Area Commander, she sees it as her responsibility to set clear directions for the police team. At this point in time, she sees four key challenges.

To provide a safe workplace: Increasing officer survival skills, paying due attention to occupational health and safety, reducing stress and injury and watching over mental health.

She believes that, if these issues due not receive enough care then officers are either worn down or harden their attitudes. Proper debriefing, peer support, welfare and watching over appropriate leave sustains both a better workplace and better policing.

To build respect for the police in the area: She has been impressed by the number of appreciative letters and phone calls she has received in relation to police work already being done. However, she is still committed to building up professional skills, looking at role models, cultural awareness and being pro-active and responsive alongside a capable complain management team.

To reduce violence and fear in the area: In doing this, the Commander sees interaction with the community as critical. She meets regularly with 12 representatives of the Aboriginal community and agencies who form the Aboriginal Consultative Committee. She believes that this work is more likely to be effective if it is well-focussed and assessed after a period of time. The focus for this year is the reduction of family violence and the breaking down of barriers towards the developing of mutual respect between police and community.

The Touch Footy game in April is part of this effort.

Crime reduction: The Commander sees crime reduction as also a means of fear reduction. In fact, there is less armed crime and break ins in Redfern than there is in Burwood. The majority of crimes in Redfern are unarmed street crimes. All crime in the area is declining but there is still a way to go. Most crime is committed by a relatively small number of repeat offenders and is often linked with drug and alcohol addiction. In the next period there will be a particular focus on the prevention of family violence through the work of the Redfern Waterloo Family Violence Task Force alongside an effort to reduce minor assaults and alcohol related crime. She is working with the Redfern Legal Centre to discuss issues, encourage relationships and build up trust.

Does Commander Catherine Burn feel optimistic? Yes, she does. She feels that the new building assigned to the police is a huge improvement. She loves this area and its people and believes that it is a matter of creating relationships between police and community and enabling police to feel they are a team going in the same direction. She is excited about her work, knowing that you can’t change history but that her task is a commitment to chipping away at the problems, never giving up and gathering a good team around her in both the police and the community.

Watch for the barbecues in May!