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Interview: Brendan Maccione

Leonie:

Okay, great. Can you still hear me okay?

Brendan:

Yeah I can.

Leonie:

Fantastic. Thank you. So what are you up to this morning, Brendan?

Brendan:

Preparing for work actually. I’ve got work this afternoon at two o’clock.

Leonie:

Great. And you’re in Perth?

Brendan:

I am, yeah.

Leonie:

Yeah. Okay. Right, great. So, congratulations on all the qualifications that you recently achieved through Churchill.

Brendan:

Yes. Thank you.

Leonie:

Diploma of Work Health and Safety, Diploma of Leadership and Management, Diploma of Government, Diploma of Security Risk Management, Diploma of Government Investigations and a Certificate III in Investigative Services. Is that correct?

Brendan:

It is, yeah. Certainly more than I anticipated.

Leonie:

Wow, that is fantastic, and that obviously reflects a pretty great career of service there.

Brendan:

Yeah. Look, I haven’t always been a police officer so it’s, I guess, a combination of skills but certainly the last nine years in policing has, I guess, been bought to a whole new level by identifying that these skills exist. A mate of mine raised with me that RPL existed, and that Churchill existed. So, I reached out. Managed to get the amazing Kelly who made contact with me and from that point it was just, I guess, realizing my own self worth, you know? When you’re in policing, you don’t… You know, to be able to validate qualifications or things that you’ve done in your work through formal qualifications is just… Yeah, significant boost. One, to your own self worth, but also makes you more competitive in the promotional court.

Leonie:

Absolutely. So, Brendan, can you tell me a bit about your work history? Can you take me through your career to date?

Brendan:

Yeah, look, I’ve always been interested in policing. So I applied for the police back in 1994 as a cadet. The cadet program was running at that stage. The government funding fell through for that program, so the decision was made to pull that program. I finished off high school, also had a visit from a senior officer in the police who said to me, “Go away, get some life skills. Apply to military and come back and see us when you’re ready.”

Brendan:

So, I guess I did do that. I went away and I guess, within the next couple of months I joined the military. I became a member of the Australian Army Reserve. Probably a little bit too young in my career to, I guess, really take the best from it, but it was a massive learning curve in life. Being around people who are much older than myself and seeing that camaraderie and mate-ship just made the passion grow even more. Having come from a military family.

Leonie:

Oh, okay, so who in your family is from the military?

Brendan:

My father was a serving member of the Australian Navy. Yeah, so he had quite a lengthy career in the Australian Navy and the uniform was always present in life. I guess those disciplines of the military tend to carry through your home life. But, unfortunately the sad part of that is that also the things that you see and do even in a military career, sometimes haunt you and hang with you as well.

Brendan:

So yeah, my career expanded from part-time role in the Army Reserve through to a next 10 years in hospitality. Where it pushed me out of the military side of things because my civilian career took over and I became a concierge, eventually. I started as a porter, carrying bags and driving cars, and worked my way through the management structure and eventually, probably by around the age of 19, between 19 and 20 I started running the team. So, I was really looking forward to then, seeing what hospitality could bring out and I really enjoyed the work that I did as a concierge interacting-

Leonie:

I just missed one word that you said then. You said, when you were 19 and 20 you did what? Sorry.

Brendan:

Sorry.

Leonie:

You said that you were concierge and then around 19 or 20… and there was just one…

Brendan:

Yeah. Sorry. Started to run a team.

Leonie:

Ah, run a team. That’s what I didn’t get. Okay.

Brendan:

That’s all right.

Leonie:

Right, okay. So you worked your way up pretty quickly.

Brendan:

Yeah I did, yeah.

Leonie:

Basically a managerial position.

Brendan:

Yeah, that’s right. So I guess, for 10 plus years I was running teams then. I was anywhere from small teams of five or six people right through to teams of 20 and 30 people, under my control. That was amazing, you know. I really enjoyed my time in hospitality. I got to meet some amazing personalities.

Leonie:

Who were you working with? Was it hotels? Or…

Brendan:

Yeah it was hotels. Yeah. So some of the major hotel chains here in WA. So, yeah, spent all my time here in Perth. I had opportunities to go to the eastern states and travel, but I chose to stay local because my family was here. And at that time that worked for me. Then I met my now wife so I stayed very local and continued that until we had a family.

Leonie:

And, how many kids have you got, Brendan?

Brendan:

I’ve got two kids. Yeah, I’ve got a girl who’s 14 years old and a boy who’s almost 11.

Leonie:

Oh, really? Oh, nice. I’ve got two boys and they’re 10 and 12. So, pretty similar.

Brendan:

Fantastic.

Leonie:

So, they do a lot of wrestling and fighting with each other. It’s great. Lots of sibling rivalry and rough play.

Brendan:

Yeah. Mine would be the same and obviously size and power takes over and the 14-year-old wins.

Leonie:

Oh really?

Brendan:

Yeah. She’s got a bit of strategy behind her as well.

Leonie:

Oh does she? Good for her. So, keeping the boy in his place.

Brendan:

Absolutely.

Leonie:

Yeah, nice one. Good. So Brendan, just let me get this straight in my head. So, when you were still in high school you applied for a cadetship that police were running at the time, and then that was discontinued. S, then you did some work with the Army reserves? So, was this all still while you were in your teens?

Brendan:

It was, yeah. I actually joined the Army. I needed a permission slip from my mum and dad actually to join, because I was still actually, at that stage, 17 years old. The recruiting age was actually 18, but I could get special permission and join earlier. So I joined while I was still at high school. I was still at high school and an active member of the Australian Army. Which is incredible.

Leonie:

Wow. That is incredible. So how did your parents feel about signing that, for you to go into the military?

Brendan:

I think it was a natural progression, to be fair. Dad being in the military. And, yeah, it’s just, yeah, it was just a natural thing to just take on the uniform and go and do it. Yeah.

Leonie:

Do you think he felt proud that you were following in his footsteps?

Brendan:

Yeah, absolutely. Definitely, definitely. Also, obviously a little cautious because he had his own experiences and that wanted me to go and make the best of my experiences as well.

Leonie:

So yeah, that last … so what were the age ranges of the other people in reserves that you were with?

Brendan:

I think the youngest was slightly older than me. They would have been right at that 18 years old point. And the oldest guys were within their 50s. At that stage I think the Army had a cut-off age of 55. Certainly yeah, lots of people from mid 30s to mid 40s. I guess I had to grow up very quickly because all of a sudden I was no longer around school kids. I was around mature adults who were making very informed life decisions.

Leonie:

You said that you learnt mate-ship and camaraderie from them. What else did you learn?

Brendan:

Yeah, I probably learnt a very valuable lesson that, don’t ever jump into a role without fully investigating what you’re getting into. Joining the military is an exceptional thing, but if you make the wrong choice it’s not easy to step into another role quickly. It’s a case of you’ve signed on the dotted line and you need to see your time out.

Brendan:

They invest significant resources and money into your training and they want to make you the best that they can for the unit that you’re involved in. But they don’t explain to you how difficult it is to transition into something else that you want to do.

Leonie:

Okay, and so do you feel like the people that you were in Reserves with taught you that? Or did you learn that by observance?

Brendan:

I guess it was my own experience but also having seen some of the other guys who also went through the unit, initially things are promised to you but they’re not always delivered the way that you expect them to be. Or they don’t always work out the way that you expect them to be.

Leonie:

So once you’re in, you’re obliged to stay in for a fixed amount of time. Is that how it works?

Brendan:

Yeah, that’s right.

Leonie:

Right. Okay. I’m still not completely clear. Were you in Reserves as well as in the actual Army, or is it the same thing? Or…

Brendan:

No. Look. The Army itself is referred to as the Army. When you’re in, you don’t tend to delineate, I guess, whether it’s Army Reserves or whether it’s full time Army, unless you’re, I guess, a regular soldier then you’d probably say the regular Army. Or, the Regs. So, compared to a part-time role as what they call a Choco. But, yeah, for the Army, it is the Army. So it’s…

Leonie:

All right. So you joined the Reserves and then you were… What were you committed to? How long did you have to stay in?

Brendan:

Initially committed to three years. But I saw two years of that time and then my civilian employment actually, as I say, once I started working through hospitality it was just no longer… I was no longer able to commit the time in parading. I was able to get an early discharge, an honorable early discharge, that is.

Leonie:

So then you had 10 years in hospitality. So was that from, what, 19 to 29?

Brendan:

Would have been… When did I have first charge? Yeah, it would be… I’m just thinking date wise. I started in hospitality while I was still in the Army so that was around ’97. So ’97 through to yeah, 2005, thereabouts. I [inaudible 00:12:39] my daughter’s born. Yeah it would have been from about… Yeah, I’d say ’97 through, yeah, 2005 or thereabouts, from memory.

Leonie:

Okay, and so you had a long time in hotels, hospitality. Most of that time in managerial positions, I’m imagining, if you were already there at 19 and 20.

Brendan:

Yeah. The difficulty is that, I guess, you’re not really considered at a management role until you sort of take that actual manager’s title. So I played in the field of team leader, and supervisor for quite a bit. So they like to play with these titles in hotels. But effectively yeah, I was managing the team.

Leonie:

Okay. What did you like most about that time?

Brendan:

Service to people. Yeah. I really enjoyed the differing types of service and the expectations that guests had. I suppose from the very bizarre requests to the very mundane. And, regularly done chores around the hotel.

Leonie:

So service to people. Was that part of the reason why you then went back into police, eventually?

Brendan:

Yeah. To be fair, I think it was an unfulfilled desire. At 30 years old, I made a transition between late 2004, 2005 into a career or a job change into the RAC, here in WA, which is like the RACQ in Queensland. Completely different work. We’d had our first kid at 2005 and made the decision that hospitality, as great as it was, wasn’t paying enough money for me to move forward with the family.

Leonie:

Okay, and irregular hours too, I imagine.

Brendan:

Yeah, irregular hours, no real consistency in the times that were there. It was all demanded by the hotel. So I went across to the RAC and I was taking roadside breakdown calls, so I guess, still in a service-type environment. Didn’t take long for me to actually move through the ranks with the RAC. I moved into a team-leader role within 12 months of being with the RAC. It was the team leader role then of a small team of people in a specialist area. I was looking after the membership and motoring advice teams in a call center, where I was then seconded across to a project, and took on a role as a business expert, business analyst and project-management role with a project that the RAC was running.

Brendan:

So yeah, I then used those skills that I picked up on the project work and went into a project officer’s role where I saw the rollout of some significant member projects for the organization.

Leonie:

What did that involve? What were you actually doing?

Brendan:

Yeah. The work was of a technical nature. It was around looking at the delay times that members experienced out on the road. And using some of the existing infrastructure that RAC had put in place to define some delay times that would be quoted so that… When somebody calls through for a breakdown call, they were quoted within the hour and were finding that their expectations weren’t being met because… two things. One, they would either go past the hour and they would receive no notification that somebody was going to be past the hour, for whatever reason… More urgent jobs came up or the resources just simply weren’t available. The patrol was tied up somewhere.

Brendan:

Or, the other side of things where the patrol was just around the corner, got their job. All they’ve heard is “hour” so they’ve gone away and gone and finished off their shopping. Patrol’s turned up, they’re not there. Can’t make contact with them and again, their experience as a member is not met.

Brendan:

So yeah, I was tasked with defining delay periods. So I went through and did a piece of work where I gathered data and did some analysis around the average member delays over a five-year period, and, bought those delays into the systems that existed. Basically worked out some average delay times and then we actually set those average delay times for specific areas of the metro area. And we were able to quote more realistically and we were able to get within that [inaudible 00:18:12] to 20 minutes.

Brendan:

The first part of that project we were able to roll out a process where people would receive a text message or a call if a patrol was going to be either less than the 20 minutes or greater than the 20 minutes. The second piece of that work which was set up just before I went through the police academy was going to be that it would roll into the audio-dispatching system that existed and they would actually have some live data feeding back in as to how the patrols were going and [crosstalk 00:18:47] quote-

Leonie:

Sounds like you did some great work there that really made a difference to them. So tell me, what took you from that to Police Academy?

Brendan:

Light bulb moment. Age of 30 sitting in front of a computer, and I just thought to myself, “What are you doing?” Yeah. I… “You haven’t achieved in life what you set out to achieve.” I still had that lingering vision of the commissioned officer who came out and saw me as a teen, and said to me, “Go away, get some life skills and come back to us.” So yeah. I got myself fit, committed a lot of time and energy into getting myself fit. Had a massive journey, I was 138 kilos, living an unhealthy lifestyle. New dad. Had a bariatric surgery. Basically had a lap-band fitted.

Leonie:

Okay, so similar to Randall’s experience.

Brendan:

Yeah absolutely. Yeah. Lost an enormous amount of weight. To get down to a level that I was happy with and fit. That journey really started when my daughter was born, but I hadn’t really progressed the weight loss side of things. But as the weight started to come off, I started to get a new motivation. Started to really question what I was doing. So that’s why, hence that light bulb moment.

Brendan:

Yeah, I got myself fit. Took two years, I’d finished off all of the testing and I was accepted into the police. So, went into the police in 2010.

Leonie:

Wow, what a great story. So, now tell me about that chapter of your life with police.

Brendan:

Yeah, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind really. I joined the job in 2010, came out of the Academy and went to the booze bus and to the traffic unit, initially. Really enjoyed that type of work and I’d had some losses through my family and friends through road trauma, so I was, I guess a little bit committed to wanting to do things out on the road and be in a position where I could help people out on the road. There’s a bit of a passion drive there for the I guess road policing-

Leonie:

You know it’s interesting to… Yeah. Sorry to cut in Brendan, I just wanted to say it’s really interesting to learn the perspective from a police officer as you were at the time, because for most of us who are driving around, and maybe we get pulled over for a breath test when we’re in a hurry to get somewhere or maybe we’ve been speeding and then we get a speeding fine. I know I’m definitely guilty of saying “Oh, man.” And feeling a bit frustrated, but it’s really great to hear the other side that people like you are doing it because they want to make a difference and they want to save lives. And the reality is the toll on our roads now is just getting higher and higher, isn’t it?

Brendan:

It is, absolutely. Yeah, it doesn’t seem to come down.

Leonie:

No, it doesn’t. So, okay, so you were finally in the job that you’d been wanting to do, back when you were in high school. Yeah, so keep telling me the rest of that story.

Brendan:

I loved the couple of months that I had in that particular unit. It was still early in my policing career and I thought, “What’s the best way for me to diversify now, skills, and really get the most from this experience?” So I decided to go to Regional WA. So we uplifted the family. At that stage the kids were pretty young. My wife was doing the stay-at-home-mum thing. So it was really all on me. I guess, from a financial side of things it made sense to go to a spot where it was going to be a little bit more financially beneficial for us as well. We chose the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie. So yeah, out to Kalgoorlie which is… I’ll give you some distances. It’s 595 Ks from Perth.

Leonie:

I’ve actually been to Kalgoorlie. My sister and her husband spent some time out there working in the pit and just, you know, earning a bit of extra cash. It’s an interesting place, isn’t it?

Brendan:

It is, absolutely. Yeah. It’s a bit of a, I guess, a different type of town in the fact that well, it’s got, there’s a very strong mining culture, but there’s also some real life city problems that exist within a small mining town. A small mining town that has forty-plus thousand people. So, you know. Quite incredible.

Leonie:

What sort of police work were you involved in, in Kalgoorlie?

Brendan:

Initially, general duties policing and then I made the transition across to the traffic office. The jurisdiction of the Goldfields district is the size of France, so yeah. It’s the biggest policing jurisdiction in the world, and it’s certainly the biggest in WA. So it covers everywhere from the border between NT and South Australia to the coastline. And then it’s, you know, we’re looking at… highest town include Wiluna, basically… It sort of cuts back in and comes back across to, I guess, border line of Coolgardie is probably the cut off part of that district. So it’s quite a big policing district.

Leonie:

So you did a few Ks?

Brendan:

Did a few Ks. Saw a number of different roles, so I progressed through traffic, went into a role with the District Support group and managed to travel through the Nanutarra Lands and into the MPs. I was sworn in as a Special Constable in South Australia and the Northern Territory and I was able to police cross border. So I was able to travel out and you know, effect arrests either sides of the border and deal with them as they presented.

Leonie:

Is that what Special Constable allowed you to do? Is that what that title means?

Brendan:

It did yeah. Yes, yeah. So I had powers of arrest in other states. So I was able to travel across the border as a WA police officer and enact laws that existed within the other states.

Leonie:

Okay, and so how long were you in Kalgoorlie for?

Brendan:

Four and a half years in Kalgoorlie. Before journeyed back to Perth and I went into a specialized role then, that after doing some study with the police in regards to major crash. I came back and spent then some time at WA Police, Major Crash.

Leonie:

Is Major Crash a unit in WA Police?

Brendan:

It is yeah. Major Crash Investigation Section. So a bit like the Serious and Fatal Crash Section in New [crosstalk 00:26:53].

Leonie:

Right. Okay. [inaudible 00:26:56] unit. So what did you study there? What were you studying?

Brendan:

Yeah, studied crash, collision and scene investigation. Yeah. I went to Major Crash as an investigator. Saw some horrific things on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately our good day was somebody else’s very bad day. Never a nice thing. And everybody’s worst day, every day. Pretty much.

Brendan:

Yeah, look, it was extremely satisfying to investigate crashes of this type of nature. You know, the people that I met and engaged with. Members of the community. Just so very sobering and so very sad, but so satisfying when you can bring some closure or bring some result to somebody in regards to either the last minutes of somebody’s life or what’s happened in the lead up to a serious crash. Seeing somebody come through a serious crash, you know, some months later with some amazing stories themselves.

Leonie:

Those sort of jobs that are dealing with catastrophe… Yeah, you’re dealing with people that are in pretty amazing periods in their lives. And gosh, they must be the hardest jobs of all, to be the person providing those vital services in really high-stress situations.

Brendan:

Yeah. It’s difficult. There’s a massive amount of paperwork. There’s a massive amount of preparation for Court. All of the procedural and the legal aspects of what it is that you’re investigating. There’s also that contact with the family so, you know, you’ve been at a crash scene. You’ve studied the crash scene, intimately. You’ve seen the horrific sights of mangled bodies and mangled cars at scenes. Then, to then have to liaise with the family and talk about you know, these things, is sometimes quite a difficult thing.

Brendan:

I did attach heavily to the grief. As I say, I had my own personal experiences with the family and friends that I had lost. And that vicarious trauma, to a degree, lifted the lid off a few buckets of my own. And in 2017 I was actually diagnosed with PTSD. Anxiety and depression. Stress-related burn out and, yeah. I fell over because I was over-investing in the work that I was doing, and pushing my family away.

Leonie:

Oh, okay. Gee, it’s very, so unfortunately common for people in defense and emergency services to get to a point of PTSD, isn’t it?

Brendan:

It is, yeah. Absolutely. But, I made the decision not to sit back and let PTSD define me. I went about making sure that I became the best person that I could be. You know, the best person as a police officer, the best person as a father for my children. The best husband that I could be. It was only me that could direct that and I made some significant changes. Still, you know, yeah I still have my struggles, but I made some significant changes to push through that and you know, there’s treatments that are available and I sought them out.

Leonie:

Yeah. So you were in a high-stress job in a high-stress unit. Major Crash Investigation. You told me that you started there in, was it 2000 and?

Brendan:

It was 2015.

Leonie:

2015, so that was two years of a confronting job. Was there a breaking point? Was there something that happened that you realized enough was enough?

Brendan:

Yeah. I guess, it wasn’t so much at work, it happened at home. And that was, I went to a café with my kids, and I was feeling extremely stressed at that time. I was extremely hyper-vigilant at that time. When I say hyper-vigilant it’s just that heightened state of awareness that you get when you’re adrenaline is constantly pumping. Doing the job that you’re doing.

Brendan:

People might think, “Oh, you know, what have you got to be defensive about, or on the attack about?” When you’re working at Major Crash, you’re not dealing with people with knives and guns and all the rest of it. But every time that phone rings, as I said, you’re realizing that somebody’s either dead or seriously injured, and you’re going to turn up to that job and deal with it. That puts you in a very heightened state of awareness.

Brendan:

I was in a café with the kids, and the noises and looking at where my exits were and trying to process, in my own mind, everything that was going on. Stereotyping everybody that walked through the door, looking at their hands, looking for… Am I sitting with my back to the wall so there’s no threat coming up behind me? Just everything happening in my mind at the same time. You know. And the kids asking, “Dad, can I have this milkshake? No. I want to change it now, can I have…?” And yeah. I just snapped and that was it. I yelled at the kids. Everyone in the café turned around and looked at me, like I was the worst dad in the world and I think that was probably my defining point. Where I realized, “You are struggling. There’s something going on here, because this is not the person that you are.”

Brendan:

Yeah, I identified to my leader at the time, that I was struggling and fortunately for me, he had had his own experiences and was quite happy to make sure that I got the support and the guidance that I needed.

Leonie:

Was that hard for you? To reach out and open up about that?

Brendan:

Yeah. I guess, wearing a police uniform, it makes you feel 10 foot tall and bulletproof. But when, I guess, the reality is, at the end of the day you are a human, but when you go to work there’s this expectation that you’re strong enough to deal with anything that is presented to you. You put your happy face on and you deal with the members of the public and you deal with everything else that you deal with.

Brendan:

Even your own teammates. They build up a trust in you and you don’t want to feel like you’re letting them down. So, the stigma that exists, I guess you place upon yourself, you know? That, “Hang on, I can’t tell anybody about this because they’re going to think I’m weak. They’re going to think that I’m not worthy of wearing the uniform or…” you know? So you start to play these tricks in your own mind and you put these negative thoughts into your own mind. The reality is that there’s so many, unfortunately, so many other people that are struggling, but don’t know how to talk about it.

Leonie:

Yeah. That was going to be my next question actually. It is hard, and it means that there’s probably a hell of a lot of other people who really need to reach out for some support and are not doing that. Do you think that’s accurate?

Brendan:

Yeah, absolutely. I found strength through the things that I was doing, but also through a charity which I’m now involved with, which is Sirens of Silence Charity.

Leonie:

Well do you want to tell me a bit more about Sirens of Silence?

Brendan:

Yeah, I can do. The charity itself was set up in 2015 by former paramedics, Lyn and Ian Sinclair. It’s a WA-based charity, supporting emergency services personnel, police, fire and ambulance. And it was founded through a need and I guess, identified need by Lyn and Ian that there were some of their paramedic colleagues who had suicided. And, they felt that there needed to be more, there needed to be a support network and there needed to be something in place to help the people that were struggling. Whilst the respective agencies are doing some amazing things in the mental-health space, they saw a gap that existed. You know, those people that sort of fell through and weren’t able to get support.

Brendan:

So the charity was founded in 2015 and it’s really to raise awareness of anxiety, depression and PTSD, and suicide prevention within the emergency services. The charity provides like a peer support to assist people seeking guidance, for further assistance. The charity also exists to offer our members educational and financial assistance and financial assistance by means of helping them with the out-of-pocket expenses that they may experience to seek help. For help is not cheap, these days. The charity is able to assist them with some of their out-of-pocket expenses if they’re a member of the charity.

Brendan:

So, to become a member of the charity you just need to have been a current member of an emergency services in Australia, whether that’s police, ambulance or fire. And it services people from… taking communications calls through volunteers, career staff, current, retired, injured, or terminated. It doesn’t cost anything to become a member of the charity, which I thought was just an amazing thing.

Brendan:

I was first introduced to Lyn and Ian at a Dealing with Loss, Grief and Trauma workshop that they offered in conjunction with Road Trauma Support, WA. And that was while I was at Major Crash. I heard some stories of some people getting up some paramedics who were in the room who got up and told their stories of, “Hey, I’m struggling with PTSD. This is what PTSD looks like.”

Brendan:

I guess I started to put a few ticks in a few boxes for me. But I realized the importance of speaking out about it. And the absolute power of these people to stand up and talk openly about their struggles and how that could help others. So I decided that I would try and do the same. I would, one, acknowledge that I had issues, and two, that I would not stand silently and let other people suffer while I suffered as well.

Brendan:

I started to talk about it and the charity gave me the opportunity to talk at the Black Dog on a Lead Walk in front of five- to six-hundred people. First time I’d ever told my story in public, and there was a very sobering moment at the end of that talk, where I was approached by a former member of the SAS who came up to me and said, “I heard your story. I’ve never told anybody else before, but I’m struggling and you’ve encouraged me to go and get help.” That was like, tingles down the spine.

Leonie:

Oh, you’ve just given me tingles down my spine. Wow.

Brendan:

Yeah, it was just… you know. At that point, that was the defining point, I think, about knowing that I needed to keep talking about mental health. I need to keep raising awareness. So for me, to know that I helped one person out of five or six hundred, and you know, I’ve had other people who’ve commented as well, throughout that day, with that event. But, that pushed me forward and made the importance of it more relevant. To hear that from somebody who had given their all for this country, and given my background in the military and my father’s. It certainly made it very sobering for me.

Leonie:

Wow. That’s one of those defining moments when you know that you’re on path. Isn’t it?

Brendan:

Yeah, yeah it is, absolutely. So I guess, I pushed forward with my involvement with the charity. My cousin, fortunately for me is a graphic artist and web designer. I showed a bit of an interest in some of the work that he was doing and so he gave me a few skills along the way. I was in a position then to help the charity with redesigning their website. So, actually helped with the creation of their new website and launched their new website for them.

Leonie:

Good for you.

Brendan:

Yeah. That gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me the fact that I was able to talk about my own experiences, but I was also able to give back to the charity that was around and helped me. And that’s grown. I was taken on at last year’s AGM as the vice president, along with the founders, Lyn and Ian Sinclair who was still on the committee, and a number of other emergency services personnel who are also on the committee. You know, we now run a pretty well-structured committee and we have some great initiatives and some great things throughout the year that we’re involved in, as a charity.

Leonie:

That’s great, Brendan. So, you’re an office bearer in the charity and a speaker, but before that, did the charity help you? Were you someone who reached out to the charity and received assistance?

Brendan:

Yes. Look, on the day of that course that I had with them, dealing with loss and grief, they gave us an opportunity to join up as members of the charity. It was about a month and a half to two months later when I realized that I was in a pretty dark place, as far as my journey went. I was really at that bottom end of you know, feeling pretty crappy about where my life was at that point. That I actually received my membership pin in the mail and a welcome letter.

Brendan:

Receiving that in the mail was, I guess, a bit of an acknowledgement that… It just turned up at the right time. Enough that it gave me a spark to bring me out of that dark place and think, “Well some people are not hearing, necessarily, my call for help,” but the charity was there for me at that point. They offered me support and offered me some advice and some guidance on things that I could do, and some treatments that I could seek, and some professionals that I could see. Outside of police and that’s what I chose to do.

Leonie:

So, I mean, your story’s going to keep on helping people and when we put this story out, it’s also going to help people. You know, if you wanted to send a message out. How could people help to support Sirens of Silence?

Brendan:

There’s a couple of ways. They can, if you’re an emergency services member, then become a member. It costs nothing. We have membership Australia wide. We have support services available, Australia wide or a network of people we can put you in contact with, if times are tough or you need to see a professional and you’re not happy with what you’re getting from inside the job. Then, there’s options out there that we can get support, and I guess the biggest thing is that we want to let people know that they’re not alone. There’s always somebody that can take a call. The contact details are on the website. There’s always somebody in our committee or available on the phone or email that can take a call and just provide that advice or information as to where somebody might get help.

Brendan:

But we also, we’re a charity that relies on donations. We have no paid staff on the charity, or on the committee. We rely on donations and our donations go directly back into the projects and the events that we run, that are for our members. All the money goes back into assisting emergency services personnel. It doesn’t feed high-paid staff or anything. As I said, there’s no paid staff on the books.

Leonie:

Okay. All right. Well I’ll put some links in the article and encourage people to either sign up as a member or make a donation.

Leonie:

So, Brendan, let’s take this conversation full circle now, and tell me, how did you find out about Churchill and why did you want to look at what Recognition of Prior Learning qualifications?

Brendan:

I guess I’ve recently been injured as a result of my work. And I guess…

Leonie:

In police?

Brendan:

In police, yeah. So I’ve actually got a matter which is before court at the moment. I won’t talk too much about that, but I’ll just say that it’s, I guess, got me to a point where I’m questioning the longevity in the job. And whether or not policing is still the right fit for me. But also, whether or not… What have I really got from the nine years of policing? Well, I’ve got a lot of experience and I’ve got a lot of heartache and pain. But I haven’t really been able to quantify. I’m at that nine-year point. I’m not at the 10-year service, so I don’t have any service medals. I don’t have anything that I can look at and say, “You know what? I’ve really got something from this nine years of policing, so far.”

Brendan:

I was talking to a mate who said to me, “Why don’t you look at RPL? Why don’t you look at what qualifications you’ve got, that exist from your time in policing. That can make you more competitive?” And whether that’s in the policing side of things, or whether it’s out in the open workforce. It’s about just being the most competitive and being the best person, and the best qualified, and most competitive that I can be.

Brendan:

So I did some work on having a look at what RPL meant, and then my mate suggested, “Try Churchill. I used Churchill and they got me some great qualifications.” So I jumped online, had a look. Filled in the form and was contacted by Kelly. Pretty quickly actually. In less than 12 hours I had contact. I filled it in during the night time and had a phone call first thing the next morning. And conversation started with Kelly and I told her a little bit about my career and what I did.

Brendan:

There already, she saw some benefit of that correlating to the RPL and identified to me that there may be three qualifications that she was aware of, that I could already put ticks in boxes. And, that gave me a sense of self worth, I guess. It validated that the things that I’d done within policing actually equated to something. You know? I don’t need a medal to validate the time that I’ve done. I’ve got the experiences and I can talk about them. But, I can actually get pieces of paper which show people that I’ve also got that experience.

Leonie:

And prove to yourself as well, I guess.

Brendan:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely and you don’t get a lot of pieces of paper within your policing career, or within your time in hospitality, or within your time in many other roles that [inaudible 00:49:36] you. Unless you go and study externally, or do professional-development courses, which I’ve done a number of, over the years. You don’t actively seek it out, I guess, unless you’re a scholar and I was certainly never that. It was more about investing in the inner work, rather than investing in the study.

Leonie:

And Now you’ve got five diplomas to show for it.

Brendan:

Yeah, which is just amazing. Yeah. I just never thought that I would have that level of paper validation, I guess, to the work that I’ve put in.

Leonie:

Yeah, definitely, that’s a great result. That you’re going to be using up a bit more paper on your resume now.

Brendan:

Yeah, that’s exactly right. Yes. It’s certainly going to fill some of the qualification side of things with my resume.

Leonie:

Yeah, that’s great. How did you find the process? Was it difficult?

Brendan:

The process was not difficult at all. It was probably the least difficult process that I’ve ever carried out with somebody who I’ve sought assistance from. You know? Whether it be educational or through work, or study. I prepared some documents, and when I say documents, just proof of some of the courses that I had done. Some of my service record to show some of the internal courses that I’d attended, in policing and also through my other working career. Incredibly easy. I was provided with a link that I clicked on. I uploaded those documents by PDF. They were reviewed and within two days I had a response back to say, “This is what you can get.” And I was absolutely blown away.

Leonie:

I bet you were. What a great feeling to get that news.

Brendan:

Yeah. As I say, you know, I went from thinking that I didn’t really have much from nine years of policing to an amazing level of self-worth where I realized that, “Hey, you’ve got these qualifications and this is what you’ve worked hard for.”

Leonie:

So do you think that this has changed… the feeling on how you feel about yourself on the inside, and now how you feel that you’re showing up in the world?

Brendan:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s without doubt going to make me more competitive, whether that’s within policing or whether it’s outside. I can now put my best hat, my best foot forward, and say, “Here’s my life experience and here it’s validated on paper.” It’s just exceptional that I can do that from the very little work that I had to do. That Churchill has been able to provide me.

Leonie:

That’s great Brendan. So, are you clear on what you think your next career move is going to be?

Brendan:

I’d like to say yes. But, I guess without… I’d probably have to caveat that it doesn’t get published.

Leonie:

Okay, sure.

Brendan:

Yeah. I’m pretty clear, outside of the job is at the moment where I’m looking. But yeah, given that, I guess the sensitivity of my role, I can’t really say in a public forum that I’m ready to leave the police, without it having I guess, some sort of ramifications.

Leonie:

Yeah sure. Okay. Got it, yeah. Mum’s the word.

Brendan:

Yeah, I guess I’m looking at a role in another state government role. But being able to use the skills and certainly the pieces of paper to validate my experience. They’re looking for a senior investigator and part of that qualification was the government investigation side of things. Depending, I guess, on how long it is until this is published. If I can get through this recruiting process and I’m successful then I’m happy for you to talk about how it’s helped me gain a job outside you know, by recognizing. But they were specifically looking for a government investigation as a desirable.

Brendan:

And that sort of pushed me to look for RPL as well, so…

Leonie:

Right. You got a diploma in government investigation. I’m just looking back at my notes. Yeah.

Brendan:

Yeah.

Leonie:

So how far through the recruitment process are you?

Brendan:

Well the job is due to be advertised, it didn’t go out on the 23rd, so I was told either 23rd or 25th. So either today, considered that hasn’t gone out the 23rd, so just waiting for the nod. And then I can start to put through a recruiting package for them.

Leonie:

Okay, all right. So, tomorrow the recruiting process will begin and then I guess you might not know for what, another month or so, perhaps?

Brendan:

Yeah, I’d suggest so. As they work their way through those applications. But yeah, certainly to have a diploma then backed up by another four, plus the one that I already have, and then a certificate III to go with that as well, is just awesome.

Leonie:

Definitely. And you know, often when you’re applying for something it’s yes, it’s about your experience and yes it’s about what you can show on paper, but equally important is the energy you can bring into an interview as well, and it’s great to just have that validation, isn’t it?

Brendan:

Yeah it is. Yeah, especially it’s that validation of self worth. To know that you can be competitive, because you become so structured on it’s not policing. It’s that whole mind set, I guess, of if you always do what you’ve always done, then you always get what you’ve always got.

Brendan:

You know, so if you’re happy with policing and your set in policing then you’ll always keep doing policing. If you challenge yourself and you step outside your comfort level, outside the box and go and seek other things then go and put your most competitive foot forward. But don’t go into things half baked.

Brendan:

So, I guess from the other side of things, if you know, get this interview sorted any earlier, then I guess I can talk about I went through the promotion process for police last year. And wasn’t really able to articulate well, professional development. So for me, I feel acknowledgement of those skills, I can clearly identify in future promotional interviews or processes that happen, that I have sought professional development. That I’ve had my skills identified and that the things that I’ve done in the job have assisted me to gain qualification and it’s recognized through a nationally accredited training organization. Or registered training organization.

Leonie:

Definitely. So you went through a promotion process 12 months ago, and do you think possibly was overlooked for opportunities because you couldn’t demonstrate professional development?

Brendan:

Yeah I believe so. Look, first class constable trying for a position as a sergeant, given my background in supervision and the opportunities that I’ve had to supervise while I’ve been in police, I am seeking to go to that back to that supervisory role. I had to always learn the craft of policing. There’s no doubt in that, but I feel that I’m ready to move forward into that supervisory element again and potentially then look at where I can go, management wise.

Brendan:

So, by staying with the police that gives me the opportunity to look at that promotional side of things again. I wasn’t successful the first time and I do put that down to not being as competitive as I’ve needed to be, considering that I was jumping two ranks and not one. Yeah. I guess, yeah, I wanted to be able to put forward that professional development and say, “Here’s what I’ve done, and it’s validated.”

Leonie:

Yeah, that’s great. Brendan, thank you so much for your time. I hope it’s been okay that this has been a lot longer than I thought it was going to be. Such a great conversation. So, thank you so much for your candor and for sharing your story.

Leonie:

The process from here is that over the next few weeks, I’ll write up a first draft and I’ll send it to you, and then you can just tell me if you want anything changed, added, deleted, whatever. So, basically before it shows up on our website, you will have seen it and approved it. So, if you feel like I’ve mentioned anything that you’d rather just keep under your hat, then yeah, we can change it. And, what would be fantastic is if you felt open to giving me a picture of you, like, a professional headshot or a picture of you on the job, that I could run with the article, that would be really fantastic.

Brendan:

Yeah, not problem at all. I’ve got some yeah, I’m sure I’ve got some photos that I can provide you.

Leonie:

Wonderful, yeah. And we’ll certainly, yeah, and now that I’ve spoken to you and I’ve got your story and you’ve explained to me that human connection to the charity, we’ll certainly get the word out on that for you as well, in our community.

Brendan:

Yeah, that’s awesome. And Leonie, look I appreciate it you know. I know that obviously when you had the opportunity to call me I’m sure you didn’t expect that it was going to take an hour. I tend to go on a little bit about things at times, and it’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I do care. You know, everything that I’m involved in you know, whether it’s work or whether it’s home it’s just… It just means so much and to tell my story, I’ve found that to be powerful and when I found that when I do tell it people listen. And, thank you for listening.

Leonie:

Thank you for telling it, because stories matter, and honesty and vulnerability matters. And, you know, to be honest with you, I see it as a success when these interviews do go longer than I think they’re going to go, because it means that’s been a good conversation and been, really been able to learn someone’s full story. So thank you.

Brendan:

That’s all right. It’s always difficult over a telephone. Obviously a lot easier when you’re sitting down having a cup of coffee.

Leonie:

Yeah that’s true. But there’s a few states between us, unfortunately.

Brendan:

There is, absolutely. But I’m still sitting here enjoying a coffee. So I hope you are as well.

Leonie:

Oh, good on you.

Brendan:

I’m sorry if I’ve talked your ear off.

Leonie:

No, I’ve really enjoyed it. So Brendan, thank you so much. And I’ll be in touch with the first draft.

Brendan:

No worries. And I’ll send across a photo to you and yeah, look forward to seeing the first draft and what comes from it. I’ll certainly keep you updated as well, as I go through the recruitment process.

Leonie:

Yeah, do, do.

Brendan:

There is two parts to it and if it can help from the policing side of things, you know, and to get other people recognizing the uphill, then good. But if it can help others realize that there is life after policing and out of the emergency services. If it’s damaged them, then they can do that.

Leonie:

Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, do stay in touch and depending on when this actually hits our blog, you know, perhaps we’ll be talking about you going right through to… You know, getting through this recruitment process and getting this new job or else we’ll just talk about opening up doorways within police, that you know of any other. Other thing is that I can also publish updates and let people know where RPL’s taken you.

Brendan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Leonie:

Yeah. Great. All right Brendan, well, you have a great day.

Brendan:

Thank you. You too.

Leonie:

And I’ll be in touch soon.

Brendan:

No worries. Take care thank you.

Leonie:

Okay, you too. Bye.

Brendan:

Thanks. Bye-bye.

 

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