Law Enforcement - Bringing positive community change with Yarning

Daniel Bett Posted 29 March 2022


Modis in partnership with Microsoft and the Aboriginal Affairs Division of a state-based policing organisation has delivered a mobile application to improve fairness and equality to Aboriginal communities state-wide during interactions with law enforcement officers.  In Aboriginal culture, yarning means building respectful relationships.  This app is built using the Microsoft Power Platform and provides spoken Aboriginal language interpretation of important information relating to rights in custody, COVID and youth messaging.  It allows officers to select an Aboriginal language and play aloud key messages to improve understanding by Aboriginal people who have English as a second (third or fourth) language.

The Challenges

State Law Enforcement joined with Reconciliation Australia to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan as a significant milestone to advance reconciliation with the Aboriginal community. 

State Law Enforcement ’s Aboriginal Affairs Division (AAD) takes an agency lead in fostering and nurturing better relations with our first nations people.  Strengthening partnerships with Aboriginal people and communities will significantly enhance State Law Enforcement ’s capability to respond with care and humanity.  

The “Yarning” application contributes to the State Law Enforcement Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan, and “Closing the Gap” outcomes, and is an example of its efforts to improve Aboriginal Wellbeing in Western Australia. 

The Strategy:

The “Yarning” application leverages off the existing State Law Enforcement Mobile program and is a platform for officers throughout the state to easily access appropriate Aboriginal Cultural information specific to the sub-district they are policing.  The application has cultural endorsement from the Aboriginal Police Advisory Forum, senior Aboriginal community members, and senior members of partner agencies including Aboriginal Mediation Service, Aboriginal Legal Service and Department of Communities. 

The Objectives:

State Law Enforcement wanted to better understand Aboriginal culture and traditions to acknowledge and enhance respect.  Developing this respect and embedding it into State Law Enforcement ’s organisational culture and service delivery will fortify relationships that lead to
better partnerships and outcomes for the Aboriginal community. 

The Solution

State Law Enforcement designed and developed a new mobile application to improve fairness and equality to Aboriginal communities state-wide during interactions with police officers.

“Yarning” was designed to provide spoken Aboriginal interpretations of key messages, including those relating to “Rights in Police Custody” and COVID-19.  The application allows officers to select an Aboriginal language and play selected messages to improve understanding by Aboriginal people who may have English as a second language. 

A trial version of the application was conducted in the Pilbara Police District in March 2021, with the full application being released on 10 August 2021.  To date the feedback relating to “Yarning” has been overwhelmingly positive. The application currently contains eight Aboriginal Languages interpreted by Aboriginal Interpreting WA with a further three to be added.  The 11 languages are considered the Aboriginal languages that give the greatest coverage of Aboriginal language speakers across Western Australia. 

The “Yarning” application is agile and scalable to expand and provide other messages to Aboriginal people.  For example, the inclusion and sharing of approved COVID-19 health messaging, emergency warning information and road safety messages.

The “Yarning” application was taken from concept to released product by Microsoft and Modis.

Change Makers - The Yarning App | The Project | Channel 10
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25% increase in interpreters used in the Kimberly, Western Australia; with over 300 uses per month.

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The use of the Yarning Application will strengthen relationships between police and the Aboriginal community by enhancing respect and understanding for Aboriginal people and their culture.

WA Police Minister The Honorable Paul Papalia CSC MLATweet this

The Yarning App is the first of its kind in Australia. By providing key messages in Aboriginal languages, we are being fair and showing the care we have for that community. This App has the ability to be scaled up to include new messaging which means we can get critical key messages, for example in emergency situations, in the hands of police officers to share with Aboriginal communities quickly.

WA Police Force Commissioner Chris DawsonTweet this

Aboriginal Languages have been invisible for quite some time and this application illuminates to our community that it is OK to communicate in Aboriginal Languages. Often when people are with the Police they are not necessarily feeling at ease, but when they hear their language in the App it is a really strong sign that the people that they are talking to are interested in communicating with them openly and accurately.

Aboriginal Interpreting WA CEO Ms Dee LightfootTweet this

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