The Thin Blue Line

Police are an ever-present part of life in Walgett.

Police are an ever-present part of life in Walgett. They can be seen walking down the street, in the pub, at a corner shop. They turn up at the school most days. By far the largest structure in the town, the police station, includes multiple shiny sheds, a large office building, and an imposing radio tower. The tower strikes me as demonstrative of society’s warped priorities when it comes to Indigenous people. Aboriginal community programs and organisations are constantly subjected to intense bureaucratic scrutiny regarding the benefits accrued by previous funding and forced to justify their continued existence. Aboriginal land councils, Aboriginal legal services, and Aboriginal health services play out cut-throat politics as they compete for a limited and always-threatened pool of resources. The police, by contrast, seem to get whatever they want. The town of Walgett now boasts 70 officers, a high number for a town of only 2200 people.

The fact that money seems to flow so easily for some things, but not for others, speaks volumes. New highways, bridges, and police stations simply appear out of the ground as if by magic, while Gingi has fought for years to get its new road, with no solution on the horizon. Why are things so easy on the one hand, and so difficult on the other? It appears to me as if an invisible boundary still marks Indigenous Australia off from the rest of the country, a thin blue line keeping us apart.