Working together across cultures
Logan’s population represents 216 cultures. That’s a large diversity of perspectives, stories, and shared histories.
Also diverse is the ways various cultural groups respond to the police – and that’s where Acting Sergeant Vernita Pennington and the Logan Cross Cultural Liaison Unit (CCLU) comes into play.
Vernita has been heading up the CCLU since early 2021.
‘The role of our unit is to bridge the gap between police and culturally and linguistically diverse communities,’ she says.
‘Some people from war torn countries, refugees and immigrants from all backgrounds sometimes have a perception of police that is different from your typical Anglo Aussie culture.
‘Some people from these communities are often fearful of police and this obviously poses an issue because of the large number of cultures here in Logan.’
The Logan CCLU started around 20 years ago when it was focused solely on improving relationships with First Nations communities. Since then, it has broadened to include a wide variety of multicultural groups.
The Logan CCLU works alongside various government and non-government agencies to offer support to, and connect with, communities across Logan.
‘Alone, we can only do so much but working together with other agencies allows us to reach further and form closer relationships with many people – the first step in helping the community,’ says Vernita.
“I love hearing diverse stories and meeting people and seeing over again that for all of our differences there is so much we have in common”— Vernita
As well as police officers, the Logan CCLU has Police Liaison Officers (PLOs) from a range of cultural backgrounds to ensure people from as many cultural groups as possible feel represented.
‘You can’t gain trust without relationships; if we don’t have PLOs connected to a particular community we work with them to learn and build on a sustainable relationship by attending events, sharing time and food and conversation,’ says Vernita.
‘So for example, if there is an issue in a particular community, our staff that have that existing relationship can find out what the problems are, where they need help, and what is the best way of going about it.’
PLOs visit schools, attend community events, work with Elders and spend time with community members, where they offer referrals, advice and support to communities.
The Logan CCLU holds a monthly Multifaith Meeting which welcomes leaders from various faiths and cultures to share experiences and learn about Queensland laws, QPS policies, procedures and referral to various agencies.
‘It’s an educational forum which allows attendees to ask questions around subjects like domestic violence, drugs – any issues of concern – in a comfortable setting with police and guest speakers from other support agencies,’ says Vernita.
‘Those things really make a difference.’
Vernita says everyone has a story – and every culture understands the importance of values.
‘You could be talking to someone from China, France, Samoa, Australia, Somalia – all with different cultural views and different stories and perspectives, but they all understand the importance of values and of honoring those values,’ she says.
‘If you relate things back to that then community members will often be responsive.’
For Vernita, what keeps her passionate is the range of views her job allows her to see.
“I love hearing diverse stories and meeting people and seeing over again that for all of our differences there is so much we have in common too,’ she says.
‘That and sharing food with people is always a winner!’
For the latest news and more information about Logan’s Cross Cultural Liaison Unit, you can find their most recent newsletter here.
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