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These are contributed to PANSW Police News by Tim Sinclair, NSW Police Legacy's Marketing and Communications Manager. You can scroll down for earlier stories or click on these links.
This is the story of the unfed soldier. Of the sheltered Blue Mountains kid growing into experience, the officer in uniform crying on the verandah. This is a story of resilience.
Like so many of our Police Legatees, Senior Constable Margie Behan’s life doesn’t fit neatly into the boxes. It’s part of what makes our family so strong.
Her history with us starts in 1998, when her husband, retired police officer Lance Behan, died, leaving her to raise the couple’s 8-monthold child Ethan.
Having always been aware of NSW Police Legacy in an abstract way, Margie’s involvement became personal when she started taking Ethan along to family events. Later there were the education grants, and later still the adventure camps.
Ethan loved the camps, and even when Margie was working in New Zealand or elsewhere in Australia, she always got him there to join in the fun.
“I just appreciate everything Legacy’s ever done,” she says, remembering the way somebody would always be at the airport to meet Ethan and welcome him into the group.
It was partly these experiences, and partly her own experience of growing through grief, that led her to consider joining the NSW Police Force in 2011. She felt there was a lot of unacknowledged suffering within the force, and she thought her own experiences could help her to help others. (At the very least she wanted more people to know about NSW Police Legacy, and we can’t commend her enough for that impulse).
She also felt that the only proper way to offer meaningful counselling to police officers was if she’d had some insider experience. So she signed up. To her surprise, she found the work so much more than a means to an end.
Margie loves being a police officer. She’s in the early weeks of a 6-month rotation working alongside the detectives and is looking forward to the chance to get stuck into more complex cases.
As her Police Force journey has progressed, so too has her Police Legacy journey. It took her 17 years to attend a Police Legacy event just for herself (not for Ethan), and she found the collective experience of loss almost overwhelming. She describes sitting outside afterwards with tears streaming down her face. But she went back. She now feels a powerful sense of connection with the “genuine and lovely” people she has met through these events. “These ladies aren’t just my friends; they’re my family.”
And it was this sense of camaraderie that saw her sign up to the Police Legacy Kokoda Trek in 2019, a journey she undertook with Ethan, and with some of her closest legatee friends. “I wouldn’t have done it without my son,” she says. “His encouragement, support and belief in me was and is amazing. He is my world and my reason to keep on going, to push myself and keep trying when things get tough.”
A problem with her celiac dietary requirements left her with nothing but two apples to eat on the first day after a 3am start, a flight, a truck ride, and a 15km hike. She went to bed that night “the unfed soldier,” privately wondering if she was going to have to pack it all in, but Ethan and others conspired to scrounge her food for the rest of the trek.
One thing she realised on the trek was that the widows she was walking with had already proved themselves through the way they lived their lives. “These ladies don’t need to learn resilience – they’ve all lost their husbands…. We got up in the mornings when our husbands had died and looked after our children. We kept going.”
It’s exactly this attitude and this strength that Margie has passed along to Ethan, who has spent several years working as a mechanic and is now contemplating a career in the Police Force, and it is exactly these attributes that we are sure will help them both in whatever comes next. We’re proud to be able to call them family.
John Pirie, holds a photo of the National Police Memorial –complete with a replica touchstone, as presented by Gary Merryweather, Chair of Legacy.
John Pirie’s father, Senior Constable Clarence Roy Pirie, was shot and killed when John was just four years old. Sixty years later, it remains the defining incident in his life. “If you ever had one wish, it would be that it never happened anywhere, ever again. To anyone.”
as published in the Mar-Apr edition of PANSW Police News and contributed by Tim Sinclair, NSWPL Marketing and Communications Manager
Over the course of a wide-ranging conversation it was a privilege to hear about John’s life, the incredible sacrifices his mother made for him and his siblings after his father was killed, and the determination that John feels to help others in circumstances similar to himself.
John now helps out with Police Legacy’s Social Connection Events (previously known as ‘Local Area Lunches’) that have just restarted thanks to Covid-19 restrictions easing.
He takes great pleasure in watching people come to life as they sit and talk through their shared experiences. It reminds him of how much his mum loved these occasions, and the camaraderie created.
In December last year, our Chair Det Supt Gary Merryweather presented John with the touchstone commemorating his father’s life. This was made possible because when the National Police Memorial in Canberra was commemorated in 2006, duplicates were made of the touchstones that were placed there. NSW Police Legacy had them entrusted into our care, and we are now in the process of returning them to their families.
John found himself nearly overwhelmed with the deep meaning of the occasion. “I have something now,” says John, his voice thick with emotion.
He had his father’s Swiss Army knife, which he lost when his car was stolen; he had his gun, which he had to surrender in the buybacks of the 90s. “It doesn’t replace the person, obviously… but it means a lot.”
NSW Police Legacy didn’t exist when John lost his father.
He’s sure he would have benefitted if it had.
His first contact with Legacy was soon after the organisation started. His mum needed to buy a new refrigerator but didn’t have the money. He called up to talk to someone, “and they just bought her one!” He values so much that she was never forgotten.
Even when she was in a nursing home, coming in and out of awareness, she would receive birthday flowers. “She might not have realised who they were from, but I did. I appreciated it.”
The kindness of strangers has been something John has valued all through his life, and he knows just how much help his mum received after his father was killed.
In fact, he knows exactly how much she received, because as he was clearing out her house after she died, he found an envelope “stuffed full of all the records of all the people who’d helped at the time.” He also found extensive newspaper clippings with the details of every single police officer who’d been killed after his father.
The weight of these incidents can never be underestimated.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t think how different things would have been. What I would have been doing, how different I would have been, if that hadn’t happened,” says John. “And when you think about the other police widows and children… it’s a wonderful thing that Legacy does. All those people helped.”
Throughout our conversation John mentions time and time again how much he values what’s being done for the children touched by tragedy, how important it is that both their physical and psychological wellbeing is now being attended to. For him it’s so clear that this will lead to better adjusted kids, who will have a much better chance of growing up well.
The last big Police Legacy event that John attended was the 2019 Christmas Luncheon, where he helped bus in a group from the Bathurst/Orange area. His table was full of “very funny ladies”, and as well as all the laughter and the making of merry, John found a moment of quiet profundity watching little Dexter Proctor – then just a few months old – being passed from widow to widow.
“I just watched all the love that little bloke got, and thought isn’t that wonderful?” He felt he was truly seeing the Police Family in action, and it’s something he wants for every child in these circumstances.
Plans change. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that. All Legatees are a part of NSW Police Legacy because at some point in their lives their plans changed in the most dramatic way. Here are two young Police Legatees who are planning careers based on rolling with the punches in 2021.
as published in the Jan-Feb edition of PANSW Police News
Seven years ago, Ainsley Baker became a Police Legatee when her father, Sergeant Jason Baker, died at the age of just 44.
Like so many of our Police Family, Ainsley shows a strength and a resilience beyond her years.
st year Ainsley completed her HSC, despite being locked down for several months. This year she’s taking a gap year, despite being unable to travel to France as planned.
She’s working five days a week at a children’s play centre, and plans to travel later this year with friends within NSW. (And France when it’s possible? “Yes!”)
“Every time I think about Legacy I think of them like my second family,” she says. She has good friends she loves reconnecting with through the adventure camps and other social outings, and she loves being around them because they’ve all shared the same experiences. “They just get it. They’re comfortable talking to you because they don’t feel sorry for you. You get to be yourself.”
Her favourite NSWPL moment is still the time the camp-bound minibus pulled out of the service station without her and her younger sister Jordan. It took the little boy sitting next to her other sister Mackenzie, back on the bus, saying “Hey, weren’t there two other people sitting behind us?” for someone to realise what had happened, and for the bus to swerve back through traffic to collect them.
Next year she’s going to be doing Communications at Newcastle University, living on campus and away from home for the first time. When I ask her if her mum’s going to be okay with her moving out she just laughs. “She’s fine. It’s my sisters – they’re excited I’m leaving!” As a writer and a storyteller, Communications was an easy choice for her. She has no definite plans after uni, but seems confident something will come along. In the meantime, she has 30,000 words of a fantasy novel sitting on her hard drive. Who knows what the future will bring for Ainsley, but we’re confident it will be marvellous!
Daisy Williams is a little further along the career path, having just completed her MA in Journalism at City University of New York. In what is surely a dream come true, she is currently interning at Rolling Stone magazine.
The last time NSW Police Legacy caught up with Daisy’s life and times, she had just left on exchange to the US in 2016. “Feeling a very full circle moment 5 years later!” she says.
Daisy’s been with us since 2005, when her father Senior Constable John Williams died.
She learned a lot about the world from him, and says her favourite memory of him is the two of them watching The Simpsons together.
“He always had the loudest, booming laugh and I remember sometimes not getting the jokes but when he laughed, cackling along… (thinking) it must be funny if it could make him laugh this hard.”
Daisy is incredibly grateful to have had the support of the NSWPL family for that time, and knows that it’s given her and sister Abbey enormous assistance in going into their chosen fields and thriving as young professional women.
However, she reflects the views of a lot of Police Legatees when she says it’s a bittersweet experience. “No one wishes to be in this club, but we are so grateful to have it.”
Her time in the US has shaped her in more ways than one, and it’s clear she’s still passionate about the Police Family. “It’s undeniable police brutality is a national conversation (in the US). I’d love to extend that conversation to anyone in the NSWPL family to make sure we are upholding a system that is in practice and systemically fair and just.” Daisy, I’m sure it’s a conversation you’ll find many takers for!