An officer and a gentleman

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PREETI JABBAL on Ash Dixit of the Victoria Police Force

‘Do you have what it takes?’ This slogan printed on a plastic bag was to change the life of Indian business student Ash Dixit forever. Ash, who was struggling to find a job despite completing a Masters Degree in Business Management from RMIT University, was about to pack his bags and head back to India when a chance sighting of this recruitment ad by Victoria Police altered the course of his life.
“My housemate went to the Police Museum and returned with a bag that said Join Victoria Police Now. I read it and thought to myself, why not? I have always wanted to be a cop, so let me give them a call. That was the start of my policing career,” said Ash Dixit as he shared his story with Indian Link.
He found out that unlike India, candidates over the age of 28 were allowed to join the police force in Victoria and he decided to apply.
“My application went through successfully and I was called in for selection much to my delight and my parents’ dismay. Being typical Indian parents they took a while to reconcile to the fact that I was about to give up a potential ‘business’ career and become a cop instead,” continued Ash.
“Many friends tried to dissuade me, however I was determined. There was one major hitch, though. I did not know how to swim and that was a pre-requisite for this role. I took 10 months to learn how to swim and it wasn’t easy. The physical was tough but I managed to pass the swimming test and was pleasantly surprised to see that I wasn’t the last one out of the pool, there were three others behind me,” he said with a laugh, reminiscing about his early days in 2003 when he became one of the first few Indians to join the Victorian Police Force.
Ash arrived in Melbourne from Nasik in India in 1999, as a business student. On completion of his course he applied for a permanent residency. His story resembles that of many migrants who go through the initial struggle to find a job and to assimilate in a new environment. Ash’s choice of vocation however, was quite unusual as he joined a police force that was predominantly Caucasian at that time.
“Initially people were quite surprised to see a non-Caucasian like me when I went on my beat; however over time I noticed that they felt more comfortable in approaching me, especially those who belonged to multicultural backgrounds,” claimed Ash. “Many ethnic communities have different perceptions of the police based on their experience in their own countries. For example, in India people generally hesitate to report a crime as the policemen in India are considered to be unapproachable, corrupt or ineffective. They carry that perception/experience with them when they migrate and are reluctant to have anything to do with cops even if they are the victims. They are also unaware of their rights. My job is to change that mindset,” he explained.
Senior Constable Ash Dixit is currently the Community Liaison Officer for Maribyrnong Police Station. He works with people from a wide variety of personal backgrounds, interests, academic fields of study, hobbies, belief systems and personalities. In June 2010, Ash joined former Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland in addressing members of the Indian media about Victoria Police’s drive to attract a more diverse range of police recruits to reflect the multiculturalism of Victoria. The appeal was a way to create greater trust and understanding with the community. Continuing this tradition of fostering community relationships, Ash recently helped to establish the Maribyrnong African Youth Advancement Committee. This initiative is to guide young African people to procure jobs, traineeships or voluntary work, with a view to gaining employment. “As a migrant I can relate to these newcomers and understand the difficulties that they face in starting afresh in a new country,” said Ash.
Ash expressed his concern over the increase in incidents involving people from Indian/migrant background in Melbourne, and said that there is a tendency to underreport victims of domestic violence within our community.
“I am keen to liaise with the Indian community to make them aware of their rights, to inform them about services that are available to them and to assure them that Victorian Police is very approachable,” he said. “I want the community to know that we are here to help”.
Ash’s advice to people from the community who are interested in a policing career, is to spend a couple of years in Australia before considering joining the force. According to him it is important to be familiar with the language, culture and lifestyle of the community and have some local work experience before joining
the police.
“I have really enjoyed my job as cop for nearly 10 years and would recommend policing as a career to anyone.  In particular, I would encourage those from minority communities to join as it is critical that we, as a service, are reflective and representative of the entire community,” said Ash
in conclusion.

Preeti Jabbal
Preeti Jabbal
Preeti is the Melbourne Coordinator of Indian Link.

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