Acting Senior Constable Latisha “Teesh” Whalan is a proud Ngarrindjeri Tidda/sister/woman/mother and police officer working in the First Nations and Multicultural Affairs Unit on Yuggera, Turrabl land in Brisbane Headquarters.
Much like many First Nations people her age, Acting Senior Constable Whalan said she is on a journey of discovering her responsibilities in connection to her culture.
“What is a light skinned girl like me able to achieve for her mob and help break down barriers not just for First Nations but other cultures?” Acting Senior Constable Whalan said.
Acting Senior Constable Whalan was born on an Army base in Victoria, when her father discharged from the army she moved to South Australia and grew up on a dairy farm run by her family and owned by the mission Rakkuan (and her mob).
“I recall finding out that I was a First Nations girl when I was young, I didn’t really know what that meant, other than we didn’t know much about my mum’s father’s family,” she said.
“My grandfather was taken from his family, and he would often talk about growing up in an orphanage at a very young age.
“He would recall a dark-skinned lady would come visit him regularly however he wasn’t sure who she was at the time. We believe this lady to be his mother, who sadly still remains unnamed.
“Regretfully this yarn is very common for our mob (amongst the stolen generations).”
Acting Senior Constable Whalan said living on a dairy farm so far from school, she would catch the ‘cheese box’ with her younger siblings.
“My main memory of that was the constant taunting of the darker skinned girls from the mission all because I claimed to be Aboriginal,” Acting Senior Constable Whalan said.
“This unfortunately was the first time I was exposed to racism and much like many young people in my position, I didn’t really understand or know how to explain what was going on, all because I didn’t look Indigenous.
“I recall crying to my grandfather one day (he wasn’t my biological grandfather, one of the Elders in the community), and he said those girls and the generations before them have had a hard time for being darker however being Aboriginal isn’t something that you look, it is something in your heart.
“From that moment, I understood, it wasn’t mine, or their fault that this generational trauma exists however it was my responsibility to learn and educate and strive for something more. Such a pivotal moment in my life and with the privilege of hindsight probably the start of understanding what healing country truly means.”
When discussing her journey with the Queensland Police Service (QPS), Acting Senior Constable Whalan said she started off as an administration officer in Police Headquarters in 2010, followed by entering the Justice Entry Program (a pathway for Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander mob), now known as culturally and linguistically diverse recruiting pathway.
“I was sworn in as a First Year Constable on October 25, 2011 and besides my children and partner, this was probably my biggest and proudest achievement in life,” Acting Senior Constable Whalan said.
“I spent my first few years in the Logan District and transferred to the Gold Coast. I loved working in general duties, but where I always felt I brought the most value as a sworn in officer was bringing connection between police and my local community.
“After having my daughter four and a half years ago, I realised that general duties was not filling my cup and I was fortunate enough to have the support of my boss, something that I am still grateful for, to work in a community based secondment.”
Fast forward 10 years and Acting Senior Constable Whalan said she found her life full circle when she was again in front of young, disengaged, disadvantaged youth who couldn’t understand or explain what was happening to them but this time, she had the power to positively influence their lived-in experiences as a police mentor.
Project Booyah is a police mentoring program for disengaged and disadvantage youth. It was here Acting Senior Constable Whalan said she learnt the value of listening to our youth, connection and funny enough, true to her culture, storytelling.
“I spent a year and a half mentoring in different capacities and watching the value of educating our youth around their own connections to culture and community,” Acting Senior Constable Whalan said.
“I watched not only a tangible policing benefit of the magic of Booyah, but also how as humans we inherently crave connection, and I was able to provide them positive tools in life for that.”
Four months ago, Acting Senior Constable Whalan transferred to the First Nations and Multicultural Affairs Unit and continues to ensure the QPS supports the cultural priorities of all communities across the state, include First Nations people.
“I work with some truly amazing, influential Tiddas (sisters) and Balas (brothers),” she said.
“I am extremely humbled to be in the office with genuine people who champion positive change in such a large organisation.
“I am personally passionate in creating subtle nudges, influencing, and educating. We all have unique lived-in experiences that have helped shaped us, and this is a snippet of mine. I’ve learnt from the good times and the bad times and am grateful to have experienced both.
“Intergenerational trauma trickles down and connection to culture and country challenges that perception. I feel like as a First Nations woman, I often educate about the generational trauma woven into our DNA but I don’t forget about the resilience and strength in there too. Healing Country means healing our mob from that trauma, educating, and breaking down barriers, acknowledging that strength shown, and striving for a stronger future together.”
“The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.”
Acting Senior Constable Whalan has previously worked with Deaf Services to help the deaf and hard of hearing community feel safe and comfortable, especially with police. Watch their video below.
Acting Senior Constable Whalan is based in Police Headquarters in Brisbane. The traditional place name for the Brisbane area is Jagera.
The QPS is proud to come together in celebration of the rich and diverse cultures of our First Nations communities for NAIDOC Week. We thank our First Nations members for sharing their stories.