The reality of being a police officer is miles away from the world of TV cop shows.
Catching the bad guys, for start, is only one part of the job
Interview with Francine Elsegood, Aboriginal Community Police Officer, Alice Springs
Every day is different and that’s what I love about this job. You kit up, walk out that door and just don’t know what to expect.
I’m a First Class Aboriginal Community Police Officer with the Northern Territory Police Force in Alice Springs. My Dad is an Arrernte man so this is his Country, even though he was taken away at two years old as part of the Stolen Generation.
I joined the Police Force in 2008 at the age of 40 because I wanted to make a difference and help my people. They need to understand the ‘Law’ side of things, as much as the non-Indigenous Officers need to understand the ‘Lore’ side of Aboriginal culture. Achieving a balance where both compliment each other is important.
Prior to my time in the Force I had worked in various government departments, finding my niche in Education for 9 years. Just before joining the NT Police I relocated to my mother’s Country on the Tiwi Islands my as eldest brother had just died of cancer and I needed to sort myself out. I absolutely loved going back to Country and working with my people.
Becoming a Police Officer gave me real a sense of balance within myself. I took my first posting in Darwin and then transferred out to Katherine where I worked on the Indigenous Little Sister’s program and in the Domestic Violence Unit where I consulted with a lot of different Indigenous communities, teaching them about the white-fella Law.
I’ve been a Youth Engagement Officer in Alice Springs for 8 months now. I work with two other constables and we go all over Alice Springs; having a chat with the young people. It’s not an easy job; the kids of today are very different from when I was young. I’ve been sworn at, I’ve been kicked, I’ve been spat at. But it’s all water off a duck’s back – you have to get over it. The majority live in overcrowded houses in town camps, so life isn’t easy for them. We’re at the point where they’re calling me Nanna now.
There are a lot of misconceptions about police amongst the Indigenous community out here. We don’t want to give the impression that police are bad and all we do is lock people up. We’re there to help you and if we can help in any way, we will.
You’ve got to be considerate about the way you approach people, particularly in Indigenous communities. Culture is so strong down here that some of the traditional men won’t talk to me because I’m a woman; they’ll just look away and talk to my partner. I don’t find it offensive because I know it’s a cultural thing.
Everyday I find the job challenging. Because I’m so passionate I just want things to happen straight away, but I know it won’t. These issues need to be addressed across the board, not only in law but education and health as well. But as the saying goes: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
It was an honour to receive the Patricia Anne Brennan award earlier this month, a highly distinguished award for the dedication of a female police officer within the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services. Patricia was one of the first women who broke into the male-dominated Police Force, giving women a pathway in policing.
I’m a real social butterfly so in my spare time I love getting out and about and visiting family. It’s been good to reconnect with my Dad’s family down here and get that family tree going again. I used to play a lot of sports when I was younger so I’ve just started getting back into softball.
It sounds crazy, but I love what I do; helping the community in whatever way I can. This is the job for me. And besides, where else can you just hop in a police air wing and go pick up someone from a remote area of the desert? It’s all in a day’s work.