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Queensland Police refuse to give details on why First Nations Advisory group was sacked

Dechlan Brennan -

Queensland Police have refused to outline the reasons why the force's First Nations advisory group was sacked in February, despite arguing the group was not meeting its original purpose and intent.

This week, it was revealed the Queensland Police Force (QPS) First Nations Advisory group (FNAG) had refused to sign new contracts in January - which would effectively gag them.

It comes after months of criticism against the QPS - both privately and publicly – by the FNAG about alleged failure by senior members of the force to implement cultural reforms.

In a statement on Tuesday, the QPS said: "Following an internal assessment of the operation and function of the FNAG by the QPS, which was commenced in December 2023, it was identified that the group, in its previous iteration, was not meeting the purpose and original intent of the group."

A 17-page terms of reference document for the FNAG was provided to National Indigenous Times - signed and approved by former Police Commissioner Katrina Carroll and dated March 10, 2023 - says appointments of the diverse nine-person panel will be for two years and notes the FNAG will undertake a "self-assessment" of the operation and functioning of the group in 12 months' time.

The document doesn't highlight a QPS review over its 17 pages and only mentions conflicts in a meeting capacity.

It does, however, note under "Conflict Resolution": Any grievance is handled in the most appropriate culturally appropriate and sensitive matter at the earliest opportunity; and all FNAG members and QPS are treated fairly and without fear of intimidation or reprisal.

The QPS refused to answer questions put by National Indigenous Times about why an internal review of the FNAG was done by the QPS, and what purposes and "original intent" of the group was not being met.

It was revealed this week that the FNAG were given contracts six weeks before their sacking on February 29th, saying in a statement the confidentiality clauses that "would prevent us from speaking publicly about the work of the [group]" — unless approved by the QPS.

"This clause and others within the contract were both contrary to the approved Terms of Reference and the whole of government procedures for advisory boards 'Remuneration procedures for Queensland bodies'", the FNAG said in statement.

Furthermore, the QPS have said: "The Executive Director of the QPS's First Nation Division decided to release the group members at the time and encouraged those members to apply through a transparent recruitment process."

However, the 'First Nations Focus on Change' inquiry found that the former iteration of the Advisory Body (which spawned the FNAG) was beset with misinformation from the QPS.

"The QPS also made a number of inaccurate statements about the Group, including that it was not properly representative and that there had not been a proper selection process," the inquiry's findings said.

"The material obtained by the Commission demonstrates this was not correct. There was an open selection process including a nominations process and candidate interviews."

Former Commissioner Carroll accepted in her evidence the group was representative and diverse, from areas across Queensland. This is mirrored in the terms of reference of the FNAG.

The QPS declined to address this point when asked by National Indigenous Times.

It is also unclear if the Executive Director - Alan Dewis - has the authority to disband the group without the authority of the Police Commissioner.

An advertisement on job sites shows the QPS seeking "expressions of interest" for members to be part of a "state-level focussed Police First Nations Advisory Body."

It is not made clear if the job would seek to have contract clauses "gagging" members, as the FNAG allege in their statement.

In their statement, the FNAG said: "On the 15th of March 2024 we wrote to the Premier Steven Miles and the Independent Implementation Supervisor to seek a meeting to raise our concerns and seek a collaborative way forward. This request is awaiting a response. Our concerns remain unaddressed."

It is understood the Premier Steven Miles contacted members of the now sacked FNAG yesterday, and said it fell under the portfolio of Police Minister Mark Ryan.

Minister Ryan told National Indigenous Times: "I know that the QPS is committed to working with First Nations peoples to improve police responses. Ensuring the intent and purpose of the Advisory Group is properly constituted is critical to this work. I support the QPS efforts in this regard."

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