Home General News ‘I had to forgive the NSW police,’ a man from Gamillaroi tells Sydney Prayer Breakfast

‘I had to forgive the NSW police,’ a man from Gamillaroi tells Sydney Prayer Breakfast

by ervte

The Sydney Prayer Breakfast attendees rose this morning to give a rousing standing ovation to the event’s main speaker, Peter Gibbs. Gibbs is a Gamillaroi from the community of Weilmoringle in the far west of NSW and the founder of PROUD. This training model develops Aboriginal people for a potential career in the NSW Police Force.

The 1,700-strong crowd had intercourse, ate, and was led in worship by Emu Music. And all that for 8 hours! They were led by Smith’s Hill high school students Annabelle Meek, Robert Knight, Amy Brown, Jacob Sarkodie, Chris Minns (MP), and Deb Magill – and in small groups.'I had to forgive the NSW police,' a man from Gamillaroi tells Sydney Prayer Breakfast

Still, you could hear a pin drop in the packed room when an emotional Gibbs began sharing his story.

“Friends, I think we’ve all had a chance in our lives to come to a T-junction — about whether we’re going down this path or whether we’re going down that path,” he said. “My T-junction came in 1997 when my sister Fiona died in police custody in our small hometown of Brewarrina, in northwestern NSW,” he said.

Brewarrina, he explained, is a small town with only a few thousand inhabitants. “Mainly Aboriginal. Mainly families of mine.”

“So when I was struck by the news that my sister had been murdered in the middle of the day in police custody in Brewarrina, the shock I felt that day still resonates with me,” he said.

“I had no idea what Nan was talking about until my sister died in police custody.” – Peter Gibbs.

“I’m sharing with you today the testimony that began with Fiona’s death. After her tragedy, it has given me the opportunity to come with you and share the changes I need to make – to help Aboriginal people, prevent Aboriginal deaths in custody, and, most importantly, to follow Christ.”

Gibbs told the crowd that he grew up with his grandmother telling him, “Boy, you’re going to be a leader in your community.”

“I had no idea what Nan was talking about until my sister died in police custody,” he told the crowd. “I was shaken up to make important decisions for her community…The leadership shook me up. I decided with my father that there would be no violence, that there would be no repercussions for our police – nothing would be done to the small community we loved because of the tragedy of the loss of my sister.”

After investigating the deaths of Aboriginal people in custody, Gibbs discovered that more Aboriginal people were needed in the police force. He allied with the State Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and launched the first pilot IPROWD program in NSW.

Fifteen years later, the program has trained many Aboriginal people who have taken their rightful place in NSW police stations serving our community.

“What is a better class [than] to have an Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal police officer in a police car traveling through the community and getting lessons from each other on how to deal with people – and that she might not be the solution to locking them up. Perhaps building a relationship, building understanding, is a unique cultural understanding… Because with the increasing number of Aboriginal incarceration… we need a better response.”

Gibbs also learned about himself and his family’s Christian heritage. His mother, who had died at 28, had been a Christian. His grandmother and his aunt and uncle were also Christians.

“It’s hard, but I’d rather serve Jesus.” – Peter Gibbs

One night, Gibbs planned to end his life because the weight of life’s burdens and the unforgiveness he carried had become too heavy to bear.

“I didn’t understand forgiveness. I had to forgive the NSW police,” he said. “How can you carry that burden on your shoulders and heart for the rest of your life? That’s why I chose suicide.”

But instead, he turned to God and said, “I’ll be that leader you call me to be. I’ll be that leader my grandmother told me about.” A few days later, he drove to his aunt and uncle’s church in Bourke and formally gave his life to the Lord.

The Christian life is not a rose scent, he said. “It’s hard, but I’d rather serve Jesus.”

He told the grandmothers in the crowd, “Don’t stop praying for your little boys. I am a living example of a grandmother who would not give up… I wish she had lived a few extra years and seen me. But one day, we will meet again.”

“I don’t want to burden you,” he said. “I just ywwantbe encouraged you that we need you to stand beside us. Thank you for allowing me to encourage you during Atonement Week. Bless you.”

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