Daylesford Police station is one of the busiest in the area, but not always for the reasons you think. Covering an extensive region across Hepburn Shire, this dedicated five member team attends murders, domestics and road fatalities. They’re also set the distressing task of putting down injured wildlife and keeping tabs on livestock theft.
Describing no day as the same, 1st Constable, Helen Wardlaw, discusses missing Milo tins, the Chill Out festival and what report makes the phone ring off the hook.
I hear an accent. It hails from the cold, like Daylesford.
I’m from Yorkshire in England. I’ve been over in Australia for 10 years.
What brought you here?
I came for love.
What inspired you to join the police force?
I was a teacher in the UK, came out here, but didn’t want to do any more teaching. So, I fell back on my admin background. And then as soon as I became a permanent resident, I applied to join the police force.
I wanted something different every day and thought it’d be a good challenge.
And how does it compare to teaching?
It feels like a different life. It’s good because you do get to train people here. There’s also lots of different roles within the force.
My teaching might come into fruition one day along the line, but not quite yet.
I do feel like I’m in England at the moment, with the nice leaf changes. But the people are definitely different to the UK.
I think, a bit more carefree. And the work-life balance out here is much better.
Where were you before Daylesford?
I’ve worked at Bendigo, Maryborough and now Daylesford.
The community is very eclectic here. Even though it’s a tourist town. It’s busy on weekends but nice and quiet during the week.
There’s crime, but there’s more opportunities to be engaged with the community.
What’s the most unusual crime you’ve come across?
You get some unusual reports. I had one over the phone. It was a young lady, and she was telling me that she’d had some Milo stolen from outside her front door. She wanted to make a report.
Then she said she had stomach pain. I said, ‘have you drunk the Milo? And she said, ‘maybe.’ I said, ‘what, the whole tin?’
She said, ‘I think so.’ We didn’t file the report.
What gets reported the most?
Without doubt, Coles carpark. People have prangs all the time. It is a terrible car park!
A wombat walks into the Daylesford Police Station, what would it say?
I’m here to fix your printer again.
And what’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
And what’s your favourite part of the job?
Every day is different. You can be dealing with the same people frequently, but in different circumstances.
Unfortunately, we deal with a lot of trauma. Sometimes you’re speaking with people on the worst day of their life pretty much.
Within the police, everybody has different triggers as well. So, you’ve got to kind of look out for your colleagues in that respect.
Do you use dark humour as a coping mechanism?
I guess dark humour is that sort of bridge to help with that sort of moving forward and not letting it get to you.
Everybody’s different in how they deal with trauma. I think about it as a mental health toolkit.
And how do you unwind?
I’ve got some pets, so I like to go for a nice walk with the dog. I go to the gym, listen to music, and do meditation.
I’m also a Britbox girl. I love to watch a good UK comedy and have a laugh.
Name your 3 favourite dinner guests.
I’d have Stephen Fry. I think he’s quite hilarious and dry and very intelligent, so I could pick his brain.
I would probably have the late Queen, Queen Elizabeth. I think that would be a good one to have.
And funny enough, I find Glenn Robbins very, very funny, so I think he’d be a good dinner guest.
Sent off to Wombat State Forest for the rest of your eternal life, what 3 items would you take?
My Kindle, with all my books. A picture of my pets and some good walking boots.
Tell us about an incident recently, which reminded you about why you love your job?
Working the Chill Out festival was really good. The whole town’s vibe changes and everybody’s so happy.
A lot of people take the time to come and say thank you and tell us we do a good job. That’s quite humbling and satisfying.
If you were a hashtag, what would you be?
#Ilovemydog. I’ve got a mini schnauzer. Her name is Agnes.
Dogs are the perfect medicine, particularly after a stressful day at the office.
Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.