After more than 40 years in the police force, Bairnsdale’s Brett Wyllie has decided to call it a day.
The former sergeant decided to hand in his badge at the Bairnsdale Police Station after having worked in the Divisional Intelligence Unit since 2003.
Relaxed and soaking up the sun last week when the Advertiser spoke to him, Mr Wyllie said while he enjoyed his career he “doesn’t miss policing”.
“I don’t even think about it,” he said.
Growing up in Melbourne’s western suburbs, policing was always a career he thought he would be well suited to.
“I was only a little squirt and I didn’t quite meet the height requirements,” Mr Wyllie said.
Instead, he did an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner but working in a factory in Braybrook wasn’t something he could envisage doing forever.
“I didn’t like getting grease on my hands,” he laughed.
It was around this time that a young Brett Wyllie had a “growth spurt” so presented himself as a potential police recruit.
After completing his training at the police academy he started work at his first gazetted police station in Yarraville at the age of 19.
Mr Wyllie said while Yarraville was a small station it provided back-up for nearby Footscray.
“We were equipped with a set of handcuffs, a baton and a point-32 pistol that struggled to kill a cat,” he said of his initiation into the force.
A far cry from the equipment that is now supplied to frontline police.
“In those days you’d be off doing jobs by yourself, but it was a great learning curve on how to deal with members of the public,” Mr Wyllie said.
“You certainly had to have your wits about you in how to talk to people.
“Being able to talk to people rather than at them was important.”
Mr Wyllie said the western suburbs in the 80s was a great place to be.
“I grew up in the western suburbs and was policing there and I loved it,” he said.
He says in respect of criminality the western suburbs was a lot different in the 80s to what it would later become with gangland wars.
“In those days you dealt with drunk drivers and drugs.” Mr Wyllie says dealing with people on heroin was somewhat easier as opposed to today where police are confronted with the disruptive behaviour of people high on ice.
After 12 months in the Footscray Police Station, Mr Wyllie transferred to the police helicopter as an observer/navigator.
“The helicopter side of things was fantastic. It wasn’t police work as such,” he said.
“Hanging on a winch under a chopper, it was a real buzz.”
Mr Wyllie recalls a search for a missing woman.
“We located a car in Werribee but couldn’t quite make out the number plate so the pilot said he’d land the chopper in a neighbouring paddock so we could check it.”
Mr Wyllie said he jumped out of the helicopter before quickly realising they had landed in the rhinoceros enclosure of the Werribee Zoo. “I saw the rhino in the paddock staring at me, so
I quickly got back in,” he said. While on holiday in Apollo Bay, Mr Wyllie met his wife, Sue, and arranged to transfer to Colac in the late 80s.
The couple married in 1988 and in 1990 their son, Jack, was born.
Travel between Colac and home in Apollo Bay started to take its toll and with no openings in the
Bay, the couple made the decision to move to Gippsland after a vacancy came Rosedale Police Station came up at the end of 1991.
Mr Wyllie says both he and his wife loved Rosedale and still have friends there.
One of the highlights was being called upon to escort the arrival of Santa in the police car each year.
“My daughter, Ruby, was convinced I knew Santa personally and that her Christmas wishes had a better chance of success,” Mr Wyllie said.
In 1994, the family, with three children in tow – Jack aged four, Ruby (two) and two-week-old Johanna - again packed up and moved to Swifts Creek where Mr Wyllie was the sole policeman.
“One man policing is the best, it’s a great experience and really community policing at its best,” he said.
Mr Wyllie said he and his wife immersed themselves in the township and were active members of the community.
“Because you lived in the police house, you’d have people at your door at all hours of the day and night. It’s a small price to pay but was part of the role,” he said.
“If I brought victims of crime home, Sue would be the first one to calm them down. Sue has been a great support to me over the years.”
After leaving Swifts Creek in 1998, the Wyllie’s moved to Hamilton to be closer to family.
“It was an opportunity for promotion, but after a couple of years there we decided that East Gippsland was where we really wanted to be so when an opportunity at Orbost came up we moved there in 2001.”
In 2003, Mr Wyllie decided to take a newly created job at the Bairnsdale Police Station for a sergeant in the Divisional Intelligence Unit.
The couple also made a decision not to move again while the children settled into secondary school.
“It was also a bigger opportunity to be a family. I was working day shifts and not rushing off at all hours of the day and night, so it worked well,” Mr Wyllie said.
He says the experience of moving around Victoria created opportunities for his entire family and built resilience.
“The kids got to meet and experience so many different things,” he said.
He says in every town they managed to fit in and make new friends.
Mr Wyllie says the time he took off work in 2020 to care for his late 87-year-old father in Melbourne made him realise “there’s more to life”.
While he may have retired from policing Mr Wyllie is still actively involved in the South Pines Golf Club at Lindenow South and regularly coaches young kids on a Saturday morning.
Brett Wyllie basking in the sun in Bairnsdale last week. Mr Wyllie spent 40 years in the police force and retired last month. K37-9582