Steve Bradshaw has considered Deniliquin his adopted home town ever since he was stationed here with the NSW Police Force starting in 1974.
Arriving four years into his career as a police officer, Mr Bradshaw stayed in Deniliquin for 12 years and eventually retired from the force as Assistant Commissioner of the Western Region in 2010.
It was in Deniliquin where he developed his passion for rural living and learned the importance of rural crime investigation. It’s also where Mr Bradshaw met his wife and started a family.
‘‘I came to Deniliquin as a constable with the Stock Squad and left 12 years later in 1986,’’ he said.
‘‘I arrived with a Holden ute, a horse float, one horse and a blue dog. I left with a wife, four children, three horses and the same blue dog.’’
Mr Bradshaw married Deniliquin’s Jenny Atley, and all four of their children — Emma, Norman, Dustin and Hannah — were delivered at Deniliquin Hospital by Dr Peter Robinson.
Mr and Mrs Bradshaw will return to Deniliquin today for the informal police reunion on Saturday, which has been coordinated by former Deniliquin officer Roger Smith with assistance from Deniliquin Police Superintendent Paul Condon.
‘‘I have pretty much always said Deniliquin was the adopted home town I never had,’’ Mr Bradshaw said.
‘‘I left the farm at Boggabri when I was 12 for boarding school at Tamworth.
‘‘I was working with a shearing team when the (police) recruiters came around.
‘‘We were having a number of issues on the farm with my father recently passing and a drought.
‘‘I had three uncles in the police and felt it might be a more secure career option.’’
Mr Bradshaw attended the Redfern Police Academy in Sydney and remembers that without previous driving experience on multiple lane roads, he ‘‘walked the beat for 12 months because they wouldn’t let me drive’’.
The move to Deniliquin came after Mr Bradshaw had been stationed at Walgett.
He was originally employed to replace Deniliquin’s Roger Smith in the Stock Squad, who Mr Bradshaw eventually had the chance to work alongside at Deniliquin and Narrandera.
He said from their time working together, Mr Smith became his mentor.
‘‘I took Roger Smith’s place (in 1974), and they were big shoes to fill as he was very well respected.
‘‘Roger and I worked together when he returned to Deniliquin (in the 1980s) and then later at Narrandera.
‘‘To a large extent Roger has been my mentor — not only in stock investigation but the auditable side of policing.
‘‘He is one of the best policemen I have worked with, if not the best, and I congratulate Roger for doing a fantastic job at getting this (police reunion) together.’’
Mr Bradshaw said he’s also particularly looking forward to catching up with former colleagues and Deniliquin detectives Pat Seccull and Terry Frazer.
With rural police work dominating his time while in Deniliquin, Mr Bradshaw has been a champion for its importance within the NSW Police Force both in his retirement and when he was Assistant Commissioner.
He said once a significant part of policing in rural areas, the number of dedicated rural crime officers was gradually depleting.
Asked by the NSW Government to undertake a review — the ‘NSW Stock Theft And Trespass Review’ released in June 2016 — Mr Bradshaw said he’s proud to have been involved in its resurgence.
‘‘We often see front page news if there has been a jewellery heist and $100,000 in jewellery is stolen, but not necessarily if someone has stolen $100,000 in livestock which has a massive effect on someone’s livelihood.
‘‘Two years ago I was asked by the Police Minister (NSW) to do a review of rural policing, and I am proud to say I have made a difference.
‘‘We have seen an increase in the number of rural crime officers and in rural crime intelligence officers, and a senior ranking structure in rural crime which was needed.
‘‘Rural crime was being neglected and of my 23 recommendations, about six have now been implemented. The rest have been shelved for the future.’’
While working in Deniliquin, Mr Bradshaw said he was kept very busy on the rural crime beat.
‘‘We were the stock centre of the south then, and one of the main stock routes between Queensland and Victoria.
‘‘The sheep sales were massive, and there were some particularly big ones at Hay.
‘‘I think at that time Deniliquin had 20 drovers, so there was a lot of cattle around.
‘‘My area was a big and vibrant area, from Albury and Colbinabbin in the east, across to Euston and even taking in Griffith and Lake Cargelligo.
‘‘I was away from home a fair bit, and there was certainly plenty of inquiry.’’
Away from the station, Mr Bradshaw became a member of the Deniliquin Rodeo committee, serving an executive role the entire 12 years he was stationed here, including stints as president.
That passion for rodeo has continued through for Mr Bradshaw, who is now chair of the Australian Pro Rodeo Association.
‘‘One of the big things in my time here was the rodeo’s move from Memorial Park to the Deniliquin Racecourse.
‘‘There was a lot of discussion and a vote, and our first rodeo at the racecourse was in 1980. That year we had 80 competitors in the bull ride.
‘‘I was also a pick-up man, and I still do it now.’’
Mr Bradshaw also fondly remembers his time playing rugby league in Deniliquin, and the rivalry demonstrated with district towns during competition.
‘‘I played for what was called Group 17 in the rugby league — the Deni Blue Heelers.
‘‘Our longest trip was over three hours away to Ivanhoe.
‘‘I remember one day playing at Hardinge St oval, and the tension between us and Hay boiled over so much the game was called off half way through.’’
After leaving Deniliquin, Mr Bradshaw was stationed at Cootamundra before being promoted to Patrol Commander at Narrandera.
From there he was elevated to Superintendent at Wagga, which led to his promotion to Assistant Commissioner.
Retiring back to Boggabri, Mr Bradshaw has not quite left his involvement in policing or rural matter behind.
He’s a member of the Narrabri Council crime prevention committee, serves on a state committee for animal welfare and spent five years as a board member of the former Livestock Health and Pest Authority.
■ Tomorrow’s reunion will include a public unveiling of a police memorial wall at the Deniliquin Police Station in Charlotte St.
Reunion guests will then be given a private guided tour of the station, and they will all reconvene in the evening for an informal reunion dinner at the Deniliquin Golf Club.