Leaving a legacy for those left behind
It is easy to lose sight of what our Police Force actually does. The unrealistic action and melodramatic storylines we see in television dramas is not a true representation of the work that is undertaken. These shows often neglect the community service an
Policing is a dangerous job, so when officers put their lives on the line they need to be assured that family and loved ones are well taken care of and supported should dire situations occur. Organisations such as NSW Police Legacy (NSWPL) go a long way to instilling peace of mind.
In essence NSWPL cares for the Police Family.
“We exist to support our police legatees: the widows, widowers, partners, and children of deceased NSW Police Officers. We also care for the parents of deceased NSW Police Officers,” NSW Police Legacy Chair Gary Merryweather says.
It is not just death, however, that calls the organisation into action. In 2013, NSW Police Legacy amended its constitution to extend its role to assist NSW police and their families facing difficult, tragic and necessitous circumstances.
There is also the transition from police to civilian life to take into account, which can be traumatic in itself.
“The more recent BACKUP for Life initiative supports former NSW police and their families as they transition from a career in policing to civilian life via a number of initiatives including counselling, mentoring, career development and family support,” Detective Superintendent Merryweather says.
It is work that shouldn’t be underestimated. According to Merryweather, regular workplace health and safety laws don’t necessarily apply. There are risks involved that very few people will experience. These risks warrant an extra level of care.
That is where NSWPL is ready to step in and support them.
“The risks they encounter are not supported by their remuneration so NSWPL as the NSW Police Force charity provides a range of benefits and services to ensure they are honoured and supported in their role and when tragedy strikes.
“A lot people do not realise the risks Police face on a daily basis where they have to act on their oath of office in protecting life and property. This can range from dealing with dangerous criminals to rescuing people in need of help, unavoidably often these jobs put the safety of officers in jeopardy. Having NSWPL behind our officers provides them with security and surety that if something unforeseen happens to them their families and loved ones will be taken care of. The introduction of the BACKUP for Life program takes the care we provide one step further as we provide various options to former officers and their families following their policing career. This can address mental health issues impacted by the exposure to trauma in policing to assisting them with a career transition following a physical injury.”
In essence NSWPL helps police legatees by providing education and welfare grants, scholarships, special assistance grants such as driving lesson support, or retraining to help them return to work. Further services include aged care support and advocacy as well as welfare grants for families who are facing difficult circumstances. The organisation provides referrals to counselling and support services and act as advocates for many other community support services for all ages.
Adventure camps are held twice a year, family days and luncheons are regular occurrences, and there is also a Parents’ Support Network.
Last July, 35 Police Legatees travelled to Uluru and Kata Tjuta and in January this year 41 from NSWPL and 10 from AFP Legacy joined forces at the Narrabeen Sport and Recreation Facility for a week of canoeing, climbing, sailing, surfing, tackling, scrambling, volleying, walking, telling stories and laughing.
It is important that police officers feel like they have their own community to lean on: a community that offers a lifetime of support.
“We are always pleased to see
our Police Legatees who started their journey with us as children grow up into exceptional young adults. It seems unfair to single out anyone, but two of our recent successes are Caitlin Robinson and Blake Brotherson.
“Blake recently returned from walking the Kokoda Trail along with a group of young police legatees. As part of the Trek experience we ask our legatees to fundraise for us, and Blake was responsible in coordination with the Local Area Command in his area (directly and indirectly) for raising nearly $19,000. And Caitlin is currently in the middle of her training at the Police Academy – an inspiration for us all!”
Merryweather was recently appointed to the Chairperson role. He has served the Force since 1987 and was promoted to the Rank of Superintendent in 2008, taking up Command positions at Monaro, Quakers Hill and Blacktown Police area Commands. In 2014 he was appointed as Commander, Blacktown Local Area Command. He is a strong advocate for the prevention of violence towards women and an active White Ribbon Ambassador.
Looking after the welfare of Police Officers is a passion and Merryweather has, for several years, been an active supporter of welfare services. So his appointment to the NSWPL in 2017 came as no surprise.
His vision is to grow NSWPL by way of corporate sponsorship and match giving programs. By actively getting involved in these initiatives, businesses can demonstrate their social responsibility and support towards the NSW Police Force and the Police family, enabling the charity to expand its services to its beneficiaries.
Support is received via individual and corporate donors to run the charity and manage its many programs. It also important to note that police officers are also great benefactors. One important source of funding is through police officers committed to the work NSWPL do.
Merryweather will also be looking to increase support from corporate partners, and look to further increase the strong and ongoing ties NSWPL has within the business sector. Current partners include: Police Bank and the Police Association of NSW.
“The Police Association has been with us since the beginning – one of our co-founders was Lloyd Taylor, the President of the Police Association of NSW,” Merryweather says.
Merryweather will look to nurture existing relationships, whilst increasing awareness of the organisation, and encouraging companies to join.
As noted corporate support is already strong, however crucially government is also involved
“Until the BACKUP for Life program started (in 2016), we received no government funding whatsoever, relying entirely on the support of our serving NSW police officers through salary deductions, individuals and corporate donors. The BACKUP for Life program is funded through a grant from the NSW Government and this program is focused on retraining officers who have been injured and can no longer be Police for a range of reasons. We transition these officers into alternative employment and provide a network of support if they are unable to work any longer.”
This self-funded not-for-profit organisation relies on the support and generosity of the Police Family as well as the wider community. Merryweather will continue to push its virtues and build relationships outside the Force to ensure NSWPL continues to grow stronger, whilst delivering even more benefits to its members.
NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller APM and Ms Kate Kilby
Police Remembrance Day