ABC: New program helps interstate regional officers get into policing quicker

When Carlene Barcham moved to Tasmania in 2016, she thought her days of policing were behind her. 

Key points:

  • Tasmania Police’s Fast Tracker recruitment program has halved the traditional recruitment course
  • It was first developed in 2018 and so far 60 returning officers from around the country have graduated
  • The new recruits have come from a variety of Australian states, New Zealand and the UK

Her husband, who’s originally from northern Tasmania, was retiring from the Victorian police force and she was eager to begin their next chapter together. 

“I joined Victoria Police in 2003. I worked around country Victoria for all my time in the force, I worked in small 16-hour stations, 24-hour stations, all in general duties. I loved it,” she said.

“I resigned from Victoria Police to come over here for the move.”

They fell in love with St Helens on the state’s east coast and built a house just out of town. 

“We finished building our house and I tried to think, ‘well, what am I going to do now’, and I did miss policing, I missed it greatly,” she said. 

“I tried a few different options for jobs — retail and hospitality. But I just came to the realisation that I just missed policing and I had to get back into it.”

She started making inquiries about Tasmania Police’s Fast Tracker recruitment program, which sees the traditional recruitment course halved, so former officers who have worked in other states or careers can brush up on their skills and hit the beat quicker. 

It was first developed in 2018 and so far 60 returning officers from around the country have graduated. 

“I’d been out of policing for two years but I applied and two weeks later they called and I went in and had a chat and it went from there,” she said. 

“It was an easy process to go through, there was no gap, you weren’t left wondering. The communication was wonderful.

“I did a year in Launceston and commuted from St Helens, but now I’m working on the coast and it’s great.”

Commander Robert Blackwood from Tasmania Police said next month’s Fast Tracker group was the largest so far.

“We’ll have a total of 17 fast trackers signed up — 13 are men, four are women,” he said.

“They come from a variety of Australian states, New Zealand, UK and one was born in Kenya.”

Cost of living too high

Self-proclaimed “water rat” William Broadbridge is originally from the United Kingdom but now proudly calls Tasmania home. 

He moved to Sydney when he was 18 years old and initially studied to be a teacher. 

“I had a chance meeting with some cops shortly after and they encouraged me to apply for the police academy,” he said.

“I got through and really enjoyed it, then got posted to the northern beaches.”

He spent 10 years with the New South Wales Police Force on and off the water. 

“I earned good money as a senior constable in Sydney but the cost of living was really high,” he said.

“We had two young children at the time, two and one-year [old] and my mother-in-law lives in Hobart, so it wasn’t a hard choice to move.”

Tasmania water police officer Will Broadbridge.
William Broadbridge is originally from the United Kingdom but now proudly calls Tasmania home.(ABC News: Jesscia Moran)

The young family have been able to purchase a house in St Helens within two years of moving, which Mr Broadbridge said wasn’t possible in Sydney.

He also underwent the Fast Tracker training and was in the same group as fellow St Helens constable, Gerard Balnaves. 

“I joined Victoria Police in 2009 and served mostly country locations,” he said.

“I worked in some 16-hour stations, so if things happen outside our rostered hours we get called out.”

No off-switch a downside

Both Mr Broadbridge and Mr Balnaves agree working in regional areas does come with its difficulties, despite the lifestyle perks. 

“You are always a police officer here, whereas you can be more faceless in bigger cities,” Mr Broadbridge said. 

“Here, when you’re off duty, people still know who you are.” 

“But if you conduct yourself in a way when you’re on duty and treat people with respect and care it’s fine, the community here have accepted us and we get involved in activities and it’s good.

“Reputation is definitely key.”

Mr Balnaves said he had become “a part of the community”.

“But I love it, I’m not one for big cities, so working remotely suits me down to the ground,” he said.

Mr Balnaves and his family moved to Tasmania two years ago, looking for a new adventure.

“When my wife sold our business in regional Victoria, we realised there was nothing holding us there so thought why not,” he said.

Boost to regional policing

With the St Helens mountain bike tracks now open and tourism right along the east coast continuing to grow, there are ongoing calls for more officers on the ground. 

Inspector Michael Johnston said the program was helping. 

“It enables us to recruit people with a range of experienced backgrounds… and get them out on the street quicker instead of the standard recruitment process,” he said.

“In the case of St Helens, we had a position that we were struggling to fill but through Fast Trackers we’ve now filled it.”

“We’ve got people from every jurisdiction in the country that have come here, some of them have quite detailed criminal investigation backgrounds, some have stayed in general duties the whole time before they’ve come to us.

Tasmania Police Inspector Michael Johnston.
Michael Johnston says the program helps police recruit people “with a range of experienced backgrounds”.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

“Some have come after only a couple of years in another jurisdiction just looking for that life change — they bring an entire range of policing skills.”

Officers in St Helens are often the first responders to mountain bike accidents as well as search and rescues. 

“Our people are developing skills here like getting people out of mountain bike trails which when they came here I doubt they would have thought they’d be a part of,” he said. 

“No two days are the same, and for many days we’re it, we’re the first responders — so having an experienced team is vital.”

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