December 15, 2021
Tania Maxwell MP has welcomed the return to primary and secondary schools of the Victoria Police ‘Schools Engagement Model’ program.
The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria said the program informed young people about risks and responsibility and helped to build strong and positive relationships with police.
“This is a great decision by Chief Commissioner Shane Patton to bring the re-badged program back to Victorian schools,” Ms Maxwell said.
“We don’t want a young person’s first interaction with police to be when they’re in trouble.
“The program builds rapport, trust and a stronger understanding that police are here to help and it delivered fantastic outcomes in regional Victoria when it was running as the ‘Police in Schools’ program.
“I’ve heard many stories of how engagement with the local police changed perceptions, educated young people about important safety precautions to protect themselves, and was fun.
“My DHJP parliamentary colleague Stuart Grimley remembers the story of one police educator parking a highway patrol car on an outdoor basketball court and using the speed gun to see how fast the kids could run.
“It might be something small, but these types of interactions are important.”
Ms Maxwell said there had been strong support for the program’s return from Community Advocacy Alliance executive chair and former chief commissioner Kel Glare, deputy chair John Thexton, a former senior police officer, and the Police Association.
“I know from my time as a youth worker that the Borinya Wangaratta Community Partnership often had Victoria Police youth officer Surrey Hunter engaging its school students,” she said.
“Surrey built up such trusting rapport with the students that they welcomed him back almost every week when possible.
“The program also helps young people to handle dangerous or delicate situations, such as family violence issues and cyber safety, encourages trust between young people who have experienced sexual or physical assault and helps them to approach and report such experiences to police.”
Ms Maxwell said the DHJP had long advocated for mandatory education in Victorian schools about online grooming and cyber safety.
“This was also a recommendation of the Inquiry into the Management of Sex Offender Information report in September,” she said.
“The prevalence of online grooming and other cyber safety issues is an increasing worry for parents and school teachers.
“It can often be best to learn of these potential dangers and how to deal with them from those who are responsible with catching the predators.”