I think the first time I really thought about wanting to be a police officer was when I was a kid watching Charlie’s Angels and Angie Dickinson in Policewoman. I was always Farrah, of course, on Charlie’s Angels, but I just loved these women and what they were doing. They were positive, strong female role models, and I remember that time of the 1970s as a time when women were coming into their own.
While I wanted to be a police officer, it was not something I got into until much, much later. I was a late bloomer and I was in my early 30s by the time I finally graduated. I just never had the confidence to do this, but as I began to grow I thought this was something that I could do.
I was born in New Zealand, my Mum was Maori and my Dad Welsh. I then moved to Australia in 1988. Before joining the police force, I worked as a chef, in a bank, as a bus driver, tour guide and I had travelled Europe. So I thought what I brought to the job as a police officer was a lot of life experience.
Good communications have always been my best friend. This job is really about how you deal with people. Policing is about many things. What I think I do bring to this job is a lot of heart or, as the Maoris would say, aroha. It means love, feeling and compassion. All communities can benefit from such an approach.
I remember going to the Mardi Gras parade about seven years ago and I knew a girl who was a probationary constable and she went marching by with the police. I thought that was so fantastic and said to my friends, I want to do that. When I discovered the people marching were all the gay and lesbian liaison officers, I thought that sounded cool and something I wanted to be involved with.
There are a lot of assumptions made about the GLLOs, and one is that they are all gay or lesbian. I am not a lesbian, and we have a lot of great straight guys doing the GLLO jobs, and doing it very well. They believe strongly in the role and know it is a problem and want to do something about it. I did it as I felt I had something to give. I have a lot of friends in the gay, lesbian and transgender communities, and I figure if people are having a rough trot and they need the police, I want to be there to help them out.
The important thing about having the GLLOs is that people experiencing problems and feeling a bit awkward about their situation or circumstances in relation to crime can feel secure in coming forward to speak to someone that they feel comfortable with.
Newtown Police Station is pretty good in that regard. I have been here for six years and I have never had to talk to any of my colleagues about homophobic attitudes. That is not to say it does not happen, but I think it is a reflection of where we are at with gay and lesbian issues. But I am vigilant and if I see anything homophobic going on, I put it in its place and stomp on it.
There are all kinds of things we deal with. Some of it is gay hatred violence. Some of it is domestic violence between partners. Some of it is as simple as parents asking about dealing with their gay kids. We are also involved in events like Fair Day, because it is in our Newtown precinct and we want to be there so people know we are there to support them. It is also a lot of fun.
Newtown has changed quite a lot and, overall, I don’t see a trend of increased homophobic violence. I think things are pretty positive. But we always need to be vigilant and we can only act on the information we receive, so it is important people notify us of what is going on. What I often find with the violence is that, very often, alcohol plays a large part. I am not saying that is an excuse, but people need to be street smart and be careful about who you are meeting and going home with.
As for Mardi Gras, I have now marched in five parades. It is the one day of the year when the police can show their commitment to the gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, and I want to be a part of that -“ and of course it’s a fabulous event to be involved in. As police officers, we don’t always get a popular response when we turn up for jobs, so it’s nice when we go to a huge community event like that and people acknowledge that you are there with them. One day, I hope we can have a contingent of a hundred in order to send an even stronger message out to the gay, lesbian and transgender and general community that we are deeply committed to supporting the diversity that exists out there in Sydney. Maybe one day -¦
Interview by John Burfitt