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New leader puts people first

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Inspector Damien Christensen is the new face of police in the Moorabool area. Photo - Meg Kennedy

By Meg Kennedy

He once kicked a few goals in a VFL football career, now he plans to kick a few more as the new face to lead local police enforcement.

Inspector Damien Christensen is head of Victoria Police in the Moorabool LGA, including the Hepburn and Golden Plains areas.

Sitting down with Inspector Christensen at Bacchus Marsh Police Station, he notes five priorities for his role; pointing to a whiteboard listing the topics ‘People, OHS Compliance, Crime and Traffic, Community Engagement, and Emergency Management.’

“I have to have people first; we’ve got to make sure…I’ve got fit and healthy people, trained people, the right amount of people to roster and the right people in the right places,” he said.

“We can’t go and tackle a problem if you don’t have resources or the right resources, or you don’t have the capabilities to do it.”

He insists that building relationships with local governments and other bodies, such as VicRoads and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is paramount.

“Externally, what I’m trying to build is relationships with other partner agencies [to] identify issues within the community and how, collectively, we could look at fixing those problems – because they’re not all police problems,” he said.

Road trauma has been a prevalent topic in Moorabool for the last 12-months, an issue that Inspector Christensen is no stranger to – he formerly served as Road Policing Inspector for the North West Metro area.

“You look at the road network in Moorabool, and with [population growth] comes heavy vehicles, more road usage and different types of road usage,” he said.

“I look at the [roundabout] in Main Street, Bacchus Marsh here, and the amount of trucks that go through the CBD.

“I know there’s a bypass on the plan, so [in the meantime] how do we support and help with traffic flow, congestion and truck issues, and ensure there’s no trauma until the problem can be rectified,” he said.

With resources such as Victoria Police’s ‘Moorabool Eyewatch’ Facebook page, social media makes engaging with police easier.

But Inspector Christensen said there is still a need for awareness that police are accessible; particularly at one-man or non-24-hour stations, such as those at Gordon and Ballan.

He hopes to make community members understand that although a station might be closed, it doesn’t mean police can’t help.

“[For example], you look at the member at Gordon [Senior Constable Luke Nolan], he works on his own and he has to constantly think of his own safety and deal with a vast majority of issues,” explained Inspector Christensen.

“[Regional stations] tend to be more isolated, and without support services from Melbourne who would come, but the tyranny of distance means they’re delayed.”

The recent introduction of the new police assistance line for reporting non-urgent crimes (131 444), as well as Crime Stoppers (1800 333 000) and triple-000 means police are accessible by whatever means.

“It’s educating the community to say, yes, the door is shut, but we’re not shut; we’re not closed.”

As well as accessibility, Inspector Christensen notes concerns of resources for regional police.

“Since I’ve been here, the resource question has come up…but there’s a number of means to access police…we roster to where the need is,” he said.

“We do have regional and division resources that sit at Ballarat or Bacchus Marsh – like detectives, highway patrol, family violence teams, prosecutors and crime desks.

It doesn’t mean [smaller stations] don’t have access to a whole host to other resources – just because Luke is sitting at Gordon on his own, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the support network behind him.”

Before his long career in the force, Inspector Christensen was a VFL football player for Geelong, and is the uncle of current AFL Brisbane Lions player Allen Christensen.

He said a strong involvement with football, including coaching several clubs over the years, has served as a “good distraction” from policing.

“You’ve got to let go at some point because of work, it’s a very demanding occupation when you’re involved in it; because the more you give, the more they want,” he said.

Bacchus Marsh Police Station is located at 117 Main Street, Bacchus Marsh.