An orphaned baby emu has been saved from an unpheasant fate last week thanks to the quick-thinking actions of Acting Senior Constable Diana Verstandig and Acting Sergeant Paul Jackson.
The frightened chick darted out in front of their vehicle while they were patrolling Tambo Road near Alpha, about 250km west of Longreach, when it ran from its saviours and back towards an angry herd of cattle.
While Alpha Acting Sergeant Jackson scared the cows away, Jericho Acting Senior Constable Verstandig scooped up little ‘Eugene’ who was sheltering in the red dust cloud kicked up by countless hooves.
Little ‘Eugene’ was not in a good way until Acting Sergeant Jackson gave him some water which made him perk right up. The officers rang local wildlife carers who took Eugene under their wing and nursed him back to health.
It’s just one example of the beauty and harshness Acting Senior Constable Verstandig sees in the Australian outback every day.
“I’m just so glad we were in the right place at the right time to save little Eugene – he has raised our spirits enormously and he’ll be Jericho station’s new mascot,” she said.
After three years in the region having spent just over a year in Brisbane’s bayside prior to going bush, Acting Senior Constable Verstandig hasn’t looked back.
“I love everything about country policing and the opportunity to ‘go west’ has presented me with so much fulfilment— I am a better policewoman for it and that’s thanks to close support of my crew and the community,” she said.
While Acting Senior Constable Verstandig called it ‘all in a day’s work’, the humble officer is already role-modelling values of hard work to her children through her service, who are all very proud of their mum.
Alpha Acting Sergeant Jackson has close to eighteen years in the job, but Eugene’s rescue was a first after spending many years in regional towns from Millaa Millaa to the Atherton Tablelands to Bedourie and Birdsville in the state’s northwest.
The then psychology student ran a childcare centre at Gladstone PCYC until he could apply for the service.
“I was just itching to get into ‘the job’, my uncles interstate had very fulfilling careers as police officers and I knew from a young age this is what I wanted to do,” Acting Sergeant Jackson said.
‘I wanted to help people at a grassroots level, and there is no other job in the world where you can have such a positive and immediate effect on people’s lives. Particularly in smaller regional towns, the level of personal engagement you have can often mean you’re ahead of the game when it comes to early intervention and in some cases, prevention, particularly on serious matters like domestic violence.
“I also love engaging with the little ones, it’s a great feeling going to a school and all kids will race up to you to give you a high five. They learn police are here to help, it’s the same going into the pub, I’ll sit down—for an orange juice—and have a great catch up with landholders and it really does build that sense of togetherness and community.”
Acting Sergeant Jackson has established community gyms in many of the regional towns he had worked to provide a healthy activity for locals and police alike.
“Out of the uniform it’s a good way to show you really are part of the town and by incorporating exercise challenges and lifting weights, you build friendships and trust,” he said.
Acting Sergeant Jackson said the bush had many drawcards for families.
“Just that family time that you can never get back once it’s gone. I am so thankful for the work-life balance living and working here provides,” he said.
“Once when the kids were really little, we got flooded in at Bedourie for about two months. We had plenty of freezer and pantry staples, but I’ll never forget driving to the Birdsville bakery and the kids chowing down on some fresh bread and milk and thinking all their Christmases had come at once!
“They certainly don’t go without here, but they have had such a unique upbringing and they really do love it here too.”
Speaking to current officers and prospective recruits, Acting Sergeant Jackson said at first glance an outback posting could seem daunting.
“I remember as a young constable being posted to Longreach with some hesitation. A more senior colleague took me aside and told me to give it a month and I’d love it and he wasn’t wrong. I have enjoyed every part of my service and will always work ‘out bush.”
If these officers inspire you, visitpolicerecruit.com.au and see if you’ve got what it takes to become a police officer.