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Faculty of Education and Arts - Occasional Speaker

Saturday, 28 August 2010, 10.30am

Superintendent Craig Donaldson


Good Morning and congratulations to you all.

Isn’t it a great feeling when the lectures are over, you feel that sense of achievement and are one step closer to realising your full potential in your chosen field. The graduating ceremony is truly a memorable day.

Your ECU parchment has enabled you to now set a tone of competence and coupled with experience will come credibility.

I would like to share with you my journey of building competence and credibility in my chosen field.

My best and most memorable graduation was 25 years ago however this occurred on the parade ground of the police academy.

I was one of 100 recruits who had endured six months of lectures; personal challenges and the occasional exposure to pain, that pain was mostly through push ups. IN FACT on the very first day whilst waiting to enter the academy, I was chatting with my future workmates but unlike them I had my hands in my pockets.

The Physical Instructor came right up to my face and yelled ‘GIVE ME 10’ I had no idea what he was talking about so I said, 10 WHAT, of course this generated his reply which was GIVE ME 20 unfortunately I was a bit slow off the mark and ended up doing 50 push ups that morning however my hands didn’t enter my pockets for the remaining six months.

I never thought I would one day return to the academy let alone as the Principal, but I have which is ironic given I left school at 14 and after joining the police did my best to stay away from the metropolitan area by spending some 15 years working in regional and remote country communities.

Policing is one of those fields that may not be for everyone and you certainly won’t become rich or famous,

 But like other sectors of government, not for profit organisations or even some non government roles; the job is full of rich experiences and rewards for effort can come in various ways shapes and forms.

My introduction to policing in country locations came as a bit of a surprise. I was enjoying myself as a water police officer, driving the police boats up and down the Swan River and occasionally to Rottnest.

I had the perfect job and one that got better during the America’s Cup period.

However someone at the transfer’s office obviously knew this and I was promptly transferred to Kalgoorlie.

Being a keen surfer and never driven past Midland, the thought of life away from the city and coastline was somewhat daunting, however mum waved me goodbye and I managed to find Great Eastern Highway.

As it turned out, Kalgoorlie exposed me to being part of a community, using my skills and knowledge to not only deal with those who flaunted the law but also help those who were less fortunate than others. More importantly being 19 at the time, it provided me with some fond memories of the nurse’s quarters.

Little did I know of the impact Kalgoorlie would have on me in future years as Kalgoorlie was where I met my wife of 20 years and where my four children were born.

My next posting was a town called Laverton which was a further 400 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie. I learnt quickly of the need to provide community leadership, communicate well and be patient.

Part of my time was spent on 10 day isolated community patrols throughout the central desert area. This was a memorable time as I not only interacted with community members but also gained a greater understanding of the need to build trust and respect and take the time to understand exactly what was expected of me as a police officer serving in this area.

I was privileged to be exposed to what I considered a different way of life compared to what I was exposed to and in doing this achieve common ground, greater acceptability and in some cases friendships.

The benefit of these types of interactions between police and community members ensured barriers were broken and common goals achieved.

I found country policing was to my liking and subsequently went on to live and work in Wiluna, Kununurra and Derby and in between returned to Kalgoorlie for another two stints. Over the years I maintained some important values, these being honesty, openness, respect and fairness, which provided me with some cornerstones of my personal and professional life.

In following years, I was lucky enough to be the officer in charge at Esperance Police Station and later at Broome Police Station and yes Broome was great and Cable Beach is magnificent but I’ve got say, policing the nudist part of cable beach is challenging to say the least.  

However yet again someone at the top must have known that I had been onto a good thing for too long and a transfer to Perth was issued. I didn’t complain this time as promotion to Commissioned Rank came with it.

My role for a few years involved creating infrastructure and resources for permanent police services to the remote Aboriginal communities of Warburton, Warakurna, Bidgidanga, Kalumbaru and Balgo so whilst I was in amongst the more corporate part of policing, I was still able to work in these communities – the experiences kept on coming and I think most importantly I started to link educational theory with experience and informed decision making became the norm.

Later I was given responsibility of Police Air Wing, Water Police, Mounted Police, K9 and Technical services. I looked after these areas for a few years, realised that I really don’t like flying in helicopters, reaffirmed my love of the water, got well and truly over the smell of horse manure, experienced the sheer terror and skill of police dogs and marvelled at the sneaky contraptions that our technical police officers designed.

During this period I was reassigned to work in Johannesburg and London to attract and recruit serving overseas officers to join the WA Police, again a tough job and again someone else knew this.

So upon return I was tasked to lead a team to capture industrial improvements and represent the Commissioner during negotiations for a replacement Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, which in lay mans terms is to get police officers a pay rise – I think I preferred the challenges of Cable Beach or even the smell of manure! But never the less I dealt with the task at hand.

So I now find myself as a Superintendent of Police with 25 years of experience but with still plenty to learn.

My experiences have confirmed the importance of reputation and credibility, communication and the building of rapport. I do know that Rapport is established through speech, and people select others not only for their professional competence, but how they ‘click’ or relate to each other. I think the difference between success and failure is often the ability to communicate clearly and effectively and never has this been more true that in today’s climate.

To conclude I would like to relay to you part of what I ask of police recruits on their graduating day when like you; they reflect a tone of competence:

Monday is the first day of your career and the countless experiences, challenges and expectations that lay ahead. You are not only well prepared to meet these challenges however to build community confidence, support and satisfaction in your service delivery you will need to further develop your skills particularly in the art of communication.

You may be exposed to people from socially and culturally diverse communities who may need your help from time to time so to achieve this  take the time to understand what is being asked of you and to do this, communicate well.

These expectations will not only come from community members, they will also come from your family, friends, colleagues and superiors.

Come Monday, you need to continue to build your credibility by adhering to values, maintaining high standards in behaviour and delivering quality work.

In doing this you will give those considered important to you confidence not only in you as a person but more importantly as a committed team member.

But just for now let’s enjoy the moment, congratulate each other and reflect on what you have all achieved.

I wish you every success - thankyou.

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