Police take a stand against stereotypes
A program aimed at breaking down stereotypes between Muslim school students and police has proven life changing.
The Stand Tall program aims to give Muslim students a better understanding of the role of police and is a joint initiative between the NSW Police Force, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Multicultural Foundation.
Run over three days, the innovative program covered topics such as sense of identity, career development, domestic violence, safe driving, and youth and police relationships.
Students from Chester Hill High School and Bankstown High School had 16 police officers acting as mentors throughout the project to help dispel any fears and misconceptions.
Bankstown student Fatema Safdari said the program changed her as a person.
"When I was chosen to be part of this program I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be like," Fatema said.
"At first I had a whole different perspective of police officers.
"After this incredible and unforgettable experience I left wanting to be one myself."
Fatema said watching a documentary on domestic violence and relationships "opened my eyes about the real world".
"I think this program should continue and give others this great opportunity to learn and get to know who police officers are," Fatema said.
Bankstown Local Area Commander Superintendent David Eardley said he wanted the young participants to move beyond negative expectations and realise their full potential.
"There is a stigma connected to young Muslims and we wanted to go past that and focus on the positives - and to let them know they can do the best they can in their lives, the same as everyone else," Superintendent Eardley said.
"We gave them a really good idea of what we have to deal with ... and they were able to give us an insight into what makes them tick and how certain issues impact on their lives.
"It is about getting to know people as individuals rather than stereotyping."
Photo: Fatema Safdari, Constable Islam Omar, Alaa Hussain. Photo supplied by Fatema Safdari