In 2005, a number of former police officers (Esther McKay, Bob Walsh and Suzana Whybro) began to meet informally over coffee to discuss stress related issues they had been experiencing arising from their work in the NSWPF. After a few meetings, other police officers contacted the group and joined the meetings. These early meetings were held at the Campbelltown Returned Services League Club (commonly known as RSL in Australia) as a mutually convenient meeting point for those who attended the meetings. Most meetings centred around individuals talking about their experience, how they were coping, what strategies they were using and the affect PTSI had on their life, their family and work situation. It soon became apparent that the ‘coffee club’ approach had become inadequate and a more formalised structured approach was needed.
In 2006, these group meetings became formalised and moved into a peer support model. It was determined that a name be adopted to identify the group. Although the group wanted to use the term ‘police’ in its identity, it was unable to do so, as this term has restricted use in New South Wales (permission must be granted from the NSW Police Commissioner). Due to this issue the group adopted the name, the Law Enforcement Post Trauma Support Group. In order to facilitate meetings on a regular basis, an application was then submitted to the Campbelltown RSL club for the use of a conference room – which was subsequently granted with the room hire fee being waived.
The group publicised their meetings through the NSW Police Association magazine, ‘Police News’ and by word of mouth which resulted in the group membership steadily growing. Meetings were held at the Campbelltown RSL Club on the third Thursday of each month, with notification of each meeting being made by a monthly newsletter. A few years later the group moved to the Campbelltown Catholic Club where room hire was similarly waived and where the group continues to meet today.
In early 2007 Bob Walsh (on behalf of the Law Enforcement Post Trauma Support Group) applied to the NSW Police Force for permission to use the name Police Post Trauma Support Group. Police Commissioner Moroney (since retired) granted permission for the group to use the name Police Post Trauma Support Group for a term of three years. This led to the group changing its name to the Police Post Trauma Support Group (PPTSG) and becoming a registered charity incorporated in NSW with tax recipient status.
The decision to become a registered charity was so funds could be raised to assist the PPTSG in paying for costs associated with the administration of the group including public liability insurance. At this time a number of benefactors assisted the PPTSG to design and print brochures, business cards and the donation of items for fundraising raffles. The benefactors included the Police Bank, The Police Association of NSW, NSW Police Legacy, CEO Global Logistics, CBD Graphic Designs, Harvey Norman and private individuals.
In 2007, as membership grew in north NSW and outer Sydney, the Mid North Coast and the Hawkesbury branches were established. The Mid North Coast Branch is located in Wauchope, a town 375 kilometres north of Sydney. The Hawkesbury branch operates from Windsor, a town 56 kilometres North West of Sydney. In 2008, a branch was started at Wagga Wagga, located about 460 kilometres southwest of Sydney; in 2009 a new branch was started at Alstonville, approximately 750 kilometres north of Sydney and in 2010 a group was started on the Central Coast of NSW.
Each branch is supported in its activities by a Chaplain. This role was initially filled by Melissa Baker who provided support and counselling for a number of years before leaving the group and being replaced by Gary Raymond APM, OAM (Retired Chief Inspector, NSWPF) who joined the group as our official chaplain.
Leisa Doherty (wife of a former NSW Police Officer) has also provided spouse support in her role as spouse support coordinator which has assisted many families struggling to deal with a loved one effected by their work related injury.
In 2019 Nancy Flinders started her role with PPTSG as coordinator for Blue Hearts. Nancy is the former partner of a former police officer and is acutely aware of the issues surrounding partners who live with someone effected by PTSD. Blue Hearts specifically assists female partners of both serving and former officers via peer to peer support, telephone support, monthly meetings and organised events. Nancy can be contacted via the PPTSG contact page.
The work of the PPTSG is in constant demand not only in NSW but in all Australian jurisdictions and, as the first support group of its kind worldwide, has paved the way for positive change and better support for serving and former police. PPTSG has also worked closely with NSW Police to collaborate on issues relating to the insurance process and assisting police to navigate the often confusing procedures and policies involved in making a workers compensation claim.
In 2007 Esther McKay was awarded the Pride of Australia Medal for Community Service for her voluntary work in founding the PPTSG, and in 2011 Bob Walsh was awarded Senior Citizen of the Year in the Penrith area Australia Day awards for his voluntary service to injured serving and former police.
Since inception, the PPTSG has worked closely with Former Police Commissioners Ken Moroney AO, APM and Andrew Scipione AO, APM. Commissioner Moroney kindly donated inaugural funds to the PPTSG and branches during a meeting he attended in 2006. The PPTSG also acknowledges the support of Former Commissioner Tony Lauer APM who attended meetings and gave moral support whilst encouraging the group to continue in their work.
Main Branch – Campbelltown
President – Esther McKay
0419 460 530
Secretary – Sue Apostolou
Treasurer – Gary Raymond
Pastoral Care – Chaplain Gary Raymond