Footscray through and through, recent police officer of the year Ian Brown tells Benjamin Millar he is enjoying more time to explore the area following a stellar 50-year career.
Tell us about your connection with Footscray?
I was born and bred in Footscray. I went to Geelong Road state and Footscray Tech, then I went and did further education at the police depot in St Kilda Road. I often say you can take the boy out of Footscray but you can’t take Footscray out of the boy. It’s a fabulous place. I think we’re very lucky with the diverse community we have here.
What’s an early memory you have of growing up in the area?
I was only a young fella when the Bulldogs won their first and only flag in 1954. I’ve followed them ever since. Around 1960, I was a lolly boy at the old Trocadero theatre and the old Barkly Theatre. I would have been about 13. I would get there about 10am and we would make the drinks, make the ice-creams. You would do a matinee and an intermediate and a night session. So I would be there 10am until midnight sometimes but it was all good fun. I used to go to Poons and I’d get three or four steamed dim-sims and eat them on the way home. They were all great people.
Describe an experience that sums up the area for you.
For a number of years, on the Wednesday before Good Friday, we used to have a tin rattle in the Footscray Mall. We would probably raise $2500 or $3000. What used to impress me is that people who basically had no money, or very little money, would come up and give you $5. We had it in Federation Square one year and well-dressed people would give you 20 cents. It’s amazing how out here people would dig into their pockets for the kids. It’s absolutely fabulous.
What has been your approach to policing?
I always say to the young people to treat with respect the people you come into contact with, the offenders, because it’s very important. To me it’s paramount. We are public servants and we do rely on the community to help us. You’ve got to set standards, be fair to people.
What’s something people don’t realise about the job?
We’re only human. We have kids, we have families, we hurt, we bleed. We love, we hurt. Just because we’re police, doesn’t mean we’re superhuman.
How has the area changed in your time?
When I was a young fella we had the Italian and English migrants, then you had the influx of the Vietnamese, the Yugoslavs. Now you’ve got the Horn of Africa people, the Syrian people. You get bad eggs in every community but at the end of the day the community here is good. It’s one of the best-kept secrets, the western suburbs. Here in Footscray, some of the eateries are unbelievable. If people looked, there are that many things they can do, a lot of it for nothing. It’s not like some towns where you have to be there 20 or 30 years to be accepted … come to Footscray and you’re basically accepted from day one.