By Elyssa King
Senior Constable Sasha Cuffe and Narelle Dickson have teamed up to make a difference in the lives of local kids in Leichhardt PAC.
Educating young minds
Sasha's passion for working with children pre-dates her time as a police officer.
"I spent seven years as a primary school teacher before joining the cops."
As the primary contact between the NSWPF and Juvenile Justice, taking on a role as a Youth Liaison Officer was a natural fit. Moving to Glebe Police Station in 2020, Sasha faced a new challenge in connecting with the kids. Once restrictions lifted, she was back visiting classrooms around the area.
"I love seeing that lightbulb moment where the kids realize that they can make a change,” She says, “ It's rewarding."
Connecting with the community
Narelle joined Leichhardt PAC's Crime Management Team as an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer in October 2021.
Along with forging bonds with local elders, her role involves building relationships with local Indigenous kids.
"The more interactions we can have with the kids, the better it is when we have to deal with them for something more serious," says Narelle.
"We hope that we never have to do the other part of it by keeping them onside and out of trouble."
A shared passion
The two women quickly hit it off in their complementary positions.
Narelle began tagging along to the Fit For Life classes that Sasha helped run weekly at Glebe-Leichhardt PCYC. The fitness-focused activities aim to keep kids engaged through sport and exercise.
"We only started with eight or nine kids in the class, and it built from there," says Sasha.
The officers from Leichhardt PAC have been so active in their involvement with PCYC that they were awarded the title of 'Overall Winning Command' by Assistant Commissioners Paul Pisanos and Leanne McCusker in 2020. Attending the classes with Sasha gave Narelle a chance better get to know the kids away from the station.
"Our plan is to keep the kids occupied and off the streets."
Teamwork makes the dream work
The start of the 2022 NRL season with a game spearheaded by two First Nations cultures was the perfect opportunity for Sasha and Narelle to take the kids on a fun weekend excursion.
"Most of our kids at PCYC are Indigenous or Māori, so when the NRL All-Stars Game came up, it was a no-brainer," says Narelle.
"There was a conversation to be had with the Commander, but it was alright because we were doing something for the kids." Sasha adds, laughing.
Doing it for the kids
The dynamic duo worked hard to make the evening one to remember– with the NRL providing complimentary tickets.
Seventeen excited kids hopped on the buses out to CommBank Stadium on Saturday 12 February - with many showing up an hour early at the station to be picked up.
Meeting their heroes
The rain couldn't dampen the group's enthusiasm as they cheered the players on. Spirits were high and stomachs full – with everyone scoring a feed at half-time thanks to a generous donation from Police Bank.
With the Indigenous women's and Māori men's teams claiming bragging rights, the kids were the ultimate winners –getting up close and personal with their heroes.
"The moment that the game finished, the kids had the chance to meet the players and get signatures," Narelle says.
"One of the kids who got a boot off one of the players was absolutely rapt. The smile on his face was priceless."
The next adventure
The success of the outing could be measured by the sing-off competition between buses on the ride home.
With their maiden outing a hit, Sasha and Narelle were already planning their next adventure.
Last weekend, they took the kids out to see the South Sydney Rabbitohs defeat the Sydney Roosters 28-16 (pictured above).
Sasha: "We're planning to get the girls more involved in the next activity."
Narelle: "Working with the kids is a different energy. Anyone that we save is always a better day."