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Chief Commissioner draws record crowd

News

Cite as: (2008) 82(7) LIJ, p. 30

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon shared her thoughts on modern policing and leadership with the largest-ever LIV President’s Leadership Lunch.

Policing is about partnerships, not about power, according to Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon.

“The old way of policing – give us power, money and resources and leave us alone to get on with the job – is not the way of the future.

“The future is about forming partnerships to deal with the problems we’re seeing.

“We need to work with other people to combat alcohol abuse, family violence, mental health [issues],” Ms Nixon said.

More than 310 people attended the 16 May LIV President’s Leadership Lunch to hear Ms Nixon speak on the future directions of Victoria Police, and discuss her leadership style and vision for the organisation.

Ms Nixon spoke about some of the changes happening throughout Victoria Police and gave her thoughts on leadership before answering questions.

She said one of the best ways of talking about the changes to Victoria Police was to talk about “some of our people”.

She described a number of projects where police were working with communities to make changes.

“The organisation has opened itself up. We think about the way we operate and the framework we operate in.”

She said occasionally Victoria Police had been criticised for its moves to employ a wider range of people [older people, more women and those of ethnic origin].

“I believe it is important we reflect the community. The backgrounds of our officers are far broader than ever before.”

Ms Nixon also spoke briefly about Purana – the major crime taskforce.

“Purana for us has been a model of the way we should go about dealing with major crime in the state.

“We have learned a lot from the taskforce, including the need to think across crime categories.”

Good leadership was not about rank, privilege or power, it was about responsibility, she said.

“It is also about having respect for people.”

Victoria Police was much in the news during the week Ms Nixon appeared at the luncheon.

On 13 May senior constable David McHenry was shot in the leg during an exchange of fire with a 25-year-old man who was killed.

This prompted wide-ranging calls for Victorian police to be armed with semi-automatic pistols – a call that was heeded last month.

However, despite the public controversy about pistols, most of the questions for Ms Nixon tended towards the personal – how she as a woman coped with the role and with public criticism.Ms Nixon said it was important to maintain belief while living with a constant level of criticism, but also to be open to what people said and if something was not working to “apologise, go back and try again”.

“It’s always a matter of what is the best way to go forward,” Ms Nixon said.

As for personal criticism, Ms Nixon said that when she began in the NSW police force 36 years ago there were only 120 women in the force.

“You don’t have a right to get emotional about the personal stuff because if you do, you can get too carried away and go off the track.

“You need to believe in yourself and make the most of your opportunities.

“However, if it doesn’t work out for you, get out. You don’t have to be damaged in a job,” Ms Nixon said.

The best attendance for a luncheon before Ms Nixon was about 270 people at the luncheon for journalist and author Virginia Haussegger who talked about the myth of women “having it all”.

Michele Frankeni

Rumbalara rules

Sport, especially in country areas, can have a unifying effect and one country sporting club has linked Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon with LIV vice-president Danny Barlow.

On introducing Ms Nixon at the LIV President’s Leadership Lunch, Mr Barlow noted that they were both members of the Rumbalara Football/Netball Club, with the Chief Commissioner the club’s number one ticket holder.

“For those of you who do not know, Rumbalara Football/Netball Club is a club located Shepparton way, where I come from. It is made up of largely Indigenous players and administrators,” Mr Barlow said.

Discovering that Ms Nixon was number one ticket holder caused Mr Barlow to think about what ticket number he held.

“Examination of my membership ticket revealed that I am in fact membership holder 88.

“I then thought that is maybe not so bad. Perhaps I am ticket holder 88 of 1000, 2000 or maybe even 3000 members. So I made a check as to the total number of members of the club and the answer – 88. So you have before you today the first and last ticket holders of the Rumbalara Football/Netball Club,” Mr Barlow said to much applause.

But the football memories did not stop there.

Ms Nixon recounted that when she first came to Melbourne in 2001 she was courted assiduously by a number of football clubs and their presidents.

“It is an interesting decision to make. So many people want to talk about football clubs and I wasn’t sure about what kind of football club to go for.”

So intense was the pressure, and from one club in particular, that she was forced to make the joking comment that “if Eddie doesn’t stop following me and encouraging me to join, he’ll be charged with stalking”.

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