Enforcing grog ban a medal-worthy challenge
ENFORCING a new zero tolerance policy to alcohol in Woorabinda was a challenging and confronting task.
Senior Sergeant Meg McArthur faced a lot of anger and confusion while also trying to stop the community, about two hours west of Rockhampton, bringing in grog from nearby areas instead.
She became officer-in-charge at Woorabinda in 2007, after moving from Palm Island, and found a community wrought with alcohol-based violence and offending.
Within 12 months after the zero tolerance came in July, 2008, Snr Sgt McArthur - who received the Australian Police Medal at Government House in Brisbane on Tuesday for her efforts - said she could already see the benefits.
She said there was a reduction in domestic violence offences and juvenile offending and more children attending school, with results continuing along similar lines since.
"Myself and my team put a lot of time into educating the community and working with them through it," she said.
"They had quite a liberal alcohol management plan before that so going from something to nothing was very difficult.
"It was just a matter of give and take on both sides and trying to work together all the time."
Snr Sgt McArthur was the first female police officer in Queensland to take up such a position in an indigenous community, though she found her gender was not an issue.
She said the community treated her position with respect as a leader and she suffered no more problems that she would just wearing the police uniform.
"In all rural and remote communities, it is you and your team and you've got to learn to negotiate with people and develop skills to get you through those hard times when you don't have the back-up just around the corner," she said.
"I think you become a more improved communicator and your ability to deal with situations is greatly enhanced.
"It was the best time in my life. The time I spent in the communities was rewarding and challenging.
"Every day you're part of the community. While you're there, you immerse yourself in their lifestyle, their culture.
"It was very educational and from a policing perspective I don't think I'll ever come across anything so wonderful again."