Last week Nigel sadly (and with a degree of envy) said farewell to Andrew, who is now working on the NSW north coast after completing his 4 year tenure. While Nigel is hoping that he won’t be alone for too long, he’s also mindful that it took almost a year to fill his own position 3 years ago so he’s not holding his breath.
Now, unlike general duties police, highway patrol officers work most shifts as a single unit unless they’re working at night (hence the “afraid of the dark” jokes) but it’s always nice to talk to someone, who actually understands the job and he’ll miss that camaraderie.
So here’s my attempt at talking up the vacant position.
Let me just start by saying that Yes outback tenures are hard to fill and not for everyone so I’ll get the negatives out of the way first. For the life of me, I can’t remember any of my high school students ever saying that their dream town would be in the middle of the desert with no Maccas or movie theatres for miles (Yes I know….they’d say kilometres) so officers with teenage children might not wish to apply.
Perhaps if I told you about the neighbours’ children busting to get home to the loo rather than use the school toilets and risk a close encounter of the snake kind, you might also add Primary students to that list. Comfortingly…. or not…. the school principal is a herpetologist, who’s quite adept at catching said creatures and apparently has his own reptile enclosure in his office.
Another factor to consider is the restricted options when it comes to medical specialists, banking and shopping centres. However, a trip to a specialist in Dubbo will attract fuel and accommodation reimbursement (IPTAAS stands for Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme ) making it more affordable and Cobar shoppers are actually well catered for with two IGAs, and a variety of smaller shops and services. Besides, with the slower pace of country life, what’s a 600 kilometres round trip when there’s nothing to rush home for?
While Covid has taught us coping strategies for staying at home, there’s actually quite a lot to go out and do in Cobar with its golf course, Golf Club, RSL Club, two hotels, a couple of restaurants and cafes and even a Subway.
After the Ivanhoe and Enngonia tenures where going out at night risked a roo through the radiator, I guess we’ve become more of the stay-at-home / “eight’s late” kind of couple but if you’re more like Nigel’s parents, who would rather stick pins in their eyes than stay at home all week, you’ll appreciate that most country towns have their own country show as well as races (horses or camels)
or the Abba festival in Trundle https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/parkes-area/parkes/events/trundle-abba-festival
and what about Elvis? https://www.parkeselvisfestival.com.au/
or the Deni Ute Muster https://www.deniutemuster.com.au/photos/
If none of that appeals, there’s always bush walking and Aboriginal rock art at Mount Grenfell.
Cobar is pretty much a gateway to the outback. Turn one way and you’ll end up in Bourke and on your way to Cunnamulla, turn another way and you’ll be impressed by towns like Hay or Hillston. Go further and you may even end up at Broken Hill, Mildura or Cameron Corner. All these towns are much more accessible when you’re half way there.
As for the people, we’ve found them welcoming and accommodating. At home we have beautiful neighbours and at work, Nigel enjoys a good relationship with the Cobar general duties officers as well as the detectives ….. despite the regular one-up-manship games. And, by the way, Highway patrol has its own office complete with fridge and microwave.
Better halves, who sign up for remote police tenures should probably be aware that there’ll be times when you’re quite literally alone in the desert for two or three days or more while your spouse does a tour of duty guarding the border or attends a strikeforce operation or (before Covid) race meeting where a high visibility police presence is required. Apart from the regular overtime shifts, there are trips away to service the car or update training and even a speedo check (only done in Sydney) will mean staying the night. In fact there’s quite a lot of overtime available if you’re interested and coming from general duties, it was a pleasant surprise.
So far, I’ve avoided the weather and, to be honest, the idea of 40 + degrees in summer might be a deal breaker for some but spring and autumn temperatures are actually quite pleasant and all is forgiven, if not forgotten, when the sunny days of winter turn into nights around the fire pit. So there you have it. The good and bad of a Cobar tenure.
And just in case you’re tempted to apply, remember that, while there are 23 special remote locations in NSW – with all the accompanying inducements – only two of them have a Highway Patrol unit…….. Walgett and Cobar.
In 5 days’ time, Nigel will begin his final year of tenure. As usual, it’s gone fast and I imagine this last year will be no different. I asked Andrew what he would miss the most when he left and his answer made me laugh. He said the fact that there was no recycling – one garbage bin for everything. And the second thing? Pizzas from the Great Western.