Constable First Class Shane Blanchard, Community Engagement Police Officer, Capricorn Region.
Late one Friday afternoon in February 2015, just after arriving home from another busy week at one of the bush communities I visit, I received a phone call from Senior Sergeant Stephen Martin, Remote Policing Command.
“What are your plans for the next month?” I was asked.
“How would you like to work up the Top End for a month? You’ll be based at Milingimbi and by the way, bring your swag,” S/Sgt Martin said.
Let the fun begin . . .
As a result of the Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Lam hitting the Arnhem Land coast on 20 February 2015, there was a need for extra policing in the most affected areas of Elcho Island and Milingimbi Island.
Milingimbi is an Island community just off the coast of Ramingining with a population of approximately 1200 people. The island has a full range of service providers and has a overnight Police Post which is normally serviced by Ramingining Police.
Due to the carnage caused and the subsequent emergency/recovery phases of TC Lam, along came Southern CEPO’s Constable Shane Blanchard, Senior Constable Jennifer Hamilton and Remote Sergeant Grant Edinborough (Haasts Bluff Police), to the rescue.
My first impressions of Milingimbi: What a lovely island community and with such well-spoken people. Almost like a tropical island holiday with a very large waterhole (oops, I mean ocean) surrounding it. For those of us who are so use to the red dust ‘oceans’ that surround our communities in the Central Desert, the ocean was certainly a novelty until they reminded us you can’t swim in there unless you want to end up as crocodile bait! It certainly was very different to the communities in which I had become so accustomed to.
But it was no holiday island resort I tell you . . .
A week or so prior to our arrival, numerous tradesmen and arborists began to land on the island and got straight to work with the clean-up. The main roads were now clear and we were able to patrol about the island quite freely. This was despite the fact that the majority of trees within the community were either blown down or were perching precariously out of the ground by a mere few roots clinging on to dare life.
12 hour days ensued and as the community gained our trust, the call outs began.
One thing was blatantly clear, the community (both indigenous and balanda) loved having us there. We covered the whole range of policing duties from re-assurance patrols, driver licencing and vehicle registrations, assisting the Remote School Attendance team (RSAS), visiting the local school, meeting with community leaders, assisting the tradesman and local council as well as operational duties including attending fights/disputes/drunks.
But hey, this was a community that had just been through a very traumatic experience so we fully expected to deal with a variety of matters and dealt with everything that came our way.
All in all, my time on Milingimbi Island was a very memorable experience that was topped off on Monday 23rd March, 2015 by TC Nathan hitting the island.
But that is another story . . .