Remote Acting Sergeant Josef Hart, currently the Officer in Charge of the Galiwinku police station on Elcho Island, is the winner of the 2011 Rotary Club of Darwin Police Officer of the Year Award.
His Honour Mr Tom Pauling AO QC, Administrator of the Northern Territory, presented Remote Sergeant Hart with the award at a special function on September 22nd at Government House, attended by Acting Police Commissioner Shayne Maines, President of the Rotary Club of Darwin, Mr Peter Beirne, Senior Police Officers, past recipients of the award and Rotary Club of Darwin members and partners.
Sergeant Hart Joined the Northern Territory Police force in 1994. After graduating he served at the Casuarina and Palmerston stations before being posted to Borroloola where the self confessed ‘bushie’ quickly adapted to remote life and made an immediate impression on the community as a fair and approachable Police officer. Sergeant Hart says the OIC at the time, Sergeant Keith Currie, was a big influence on his early career.
A posting to Maningrida followed, before a stint with the Water Police for two years saw him hone his skills in water craft management and fisheries law enforcement.
Sergeant Hart became the Officer in Charge of the Daly River station for two years before accepting the post of Officer in Charge of Police Recruitment and later a Driver Training Instructor.
Sergeant Hart became the Officer in Charge of the new Police station at Galiwinku in March 2009 as part of the first permanent Police presence on Elcho Island.
Sergeant Hart says getting the trust of the community leaders has been his goal since arriving on the island.
“There was a strong anti-police element and breaking down those barriers has been a long process but we are achieving results beyond expectations.”
His bush skills and community engagement practices have been influential in the local population accepting and embracing the benefits that come with a Police presence.
Sergeant Hart has been involved with many community initiatives including assisting parents in getting their children to understand the importance of schooling, assisting with setting up a local emergency services team, training drivers, getting the police involved in the annual healthy lifestyle festival and assisted in the development of the mental health clinic.
Sergeant Hart has been adopted into a local family and would very much like to stay on the island to see his main goal come to fruition, getting all of the people to accept the Police as an integral part of the Elcho Island Community.
The Sergeant believes the foundations laid can only get stronger with the status quo and he is especially keen to continue his engagement with the teenagers of the island.
“Far too many have gone down the path to destruction. We need to convince them there is a better way.” He said.
Sergeant Hart is the 21st winner of the award and received seven nominations for Police Officer of the Year. Comments received refer to his ability to engage with people of all ages in the community in an easily understood and relaxed manner. His respect for traditional culture and ceremonies was also mentioned as a positive contribution.
Josef credits much of his success to the support of his family who live with him at Galiwinku. Wife Mandy has adapted well to the remote life and enjoys the community spirit. She is very proud of her husband of 23 years and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than by his side.
Daughter Samantha says the best part of community life is the great school while younger brother BJ thinks being able to ride a motorbike is the coolest thing about Galiwinku.
The Rotary Club of Darwin received 135 signed nomination forms for this year’s award and many of them were for the wonderful contributions made by remote Police Officers serving across the Northern Territory.
“I am surprised and honoured to receive this award and thank the people who thought me worthy enough of a nomination. I would like to acknowledge the assistance of my fellow members, the community leaders and the tireless work done by the non-indigenous residents. It would not have been possible to achieve what we have without their support.” Sergeant Hart said.