Cr Elvie Sandow, Deputy Mayor, Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council and Andy Henderson next to the town's new sign.
Cr Elvie Sandow, Deputy Mayor, Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council and Andy Henderson next to the town's new sign.

Police leader unretires to take work in critical role

IT WASN'T Andy Henderson's intention to do any more work after 45 years in the Queensland Police force, but then the former assistant commissioner was headhunted for a contract that needed his empathic character and particular people skills.

Andy, 67, and his wife Lyn, 62, both retired from the police force five years ago.

They spent two years before that planning what they wanted to do in retirement. Once out of the force, they took up sailing, camping, overseas travel, keeping fit and enjoying an active social life.

Andy also accepted a board position with the Police Credit Union, now Q Bank, and the couple were recruited to Crime Stoppers Queensland. Lyn helped with fundraising activities while Andy went on the board and into the chairman role. The police force had been an important part of Andy's life for so long he was pleased to retain an ongoing casual connection even after retiring.

This was their retirement. Active. Enjoyable. Body and mind fit.

Andy and Lyn Henderson at their home on the Sunshine Coast.
Andy and Lyn Henderson at their home on the Sunshine Coast. Tracey Johnstone

But just over six months ago the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships needed the right person to work with the Cherbourg Aboriginal Council and residents to identify the community issues and their vision.

Andy's time as the Far North District asssistant police commissioner and his experience helping with indigenous community challenges were key to his appointment to the role of Senior Government Co-ordinator for Cherbourg.

"I worked with a lot of government departments in the north to get good outcomes and I think that is why the phone call came," Andy said.

The proud Cherbourg community is described by the Australian Bureau of Statistics from its 2016 Census as "the most disadvantaged" local government community. The town of 1269 people living three hours north-west of Brisbane is fraught with poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, violence and a great deal of sadness.

"The community is going forward and there is a lot of pride, but every now and then some issues come out and that is what I am there for," Andy said.

"It's not a crusade," he said of the work he was doing to help restore community well-being, create community cohesion and harmony.

He said it was also about ensuring government agencies were working together and in the right direction, and their funding was being allocated to the right areas.

"(I am) co-ordinating government departments, ensuring they are not working in silos within the community," he said.

"A lot of government departments provide funding to non-government agencies."

Andy's been on site each week, travelling from his home on the Sunshine Coast.

He's appreciated the opportunity to work in this critical role and cites the the set-up of the PCYC Restart program for at-risk school children, with the assistance of Assistant Inspector Scott Stahlhut and Department of Eduction co-ordinator Simon Cotton, as just one of the highlights of the job.

He is spending this month preparing a report for the government.

"I am not expecting to solve the problems of the world there," he said.

"There are historical issues. It's a generational change, but it is going in the right direction.

"There are a lot of good ideas being pushed forward. The important things are for the children to feel safe, go to school and get an education."

Sitting back for a social chat, Andy and Lyn talk of a long bucket list that includes seeing as much of Australia and the world as possible, but the work Andy is doing, which Lyn fully supports, is inherent to their giving characters.

But if a similar project comes his way, and as long as Lyn is happy with it, Andy admits he could be tempted to take it on as long as it involves problem solving or disaster management, which he has excelled in during his long police career, and keeps him in touch with his old tribe, the police force.

  • The program was first delivered by PCYC Toowoomba and then introduced in Cherbourg in December 2018.
  • Restart is being run by the PCYC with the help of the police and education departments.
  • Children that don't go to school are collected from the Cherbourg community, taken to the PCYC hall in nearby Murgon where they are given breakfast.
  • At the PCYC the children are involved in structured activities which are designed to help them move back into schooling.

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