Youth officer Senior Constable Barbara Beard strongly believes "there are no bad kids", despite working with the "worst of the worst" for almost 20 years.
She was jointly named the 2021 Goulburn Mulwaree Senior of the Year for her hard work and commitment to youth in the region. Barbara works throughout the Southern Highlands, Southern Tablelands, Upper Lachlan and Yass Valley regions.
As youth officer for the Hume Police District she is responsible for delivering cautions and referring children and young people to youth justice conferences. The role also involves creating strategies to reduce juvenile crime such as: Safety talks at schools, crime reduction programs, and networking with other agencies.
Barbara wasn't always in law enforcement. She managed chicken farms in Appin and then Wallacia before moving to Goulburn and working as a merchandising representative.
In 2001, at 45 years old, she applied for the NSW Police Force.
Studying to become a police officer wasn't easy for Barbara.
"The study side was pretty tough because I'd never used a computer before. My granddaughter started school that year and taught me how to turn a computer on," she said.
"The young ones would start their essays the night before it was due, I'd be working on it for three weeks."
The fitness side came naturally to the budding officer. She had always loved sport and would fill in for the PE teacher in high school.
When the officer attested from the Goulburn police academy she cried "tears of joy".
"It was a very proud day," she said.
"My children were such a support to me through that time."
Barbara was stationed with Goulburn police and spent the next four and a half years doing general duties.
The officer's hard work and commitment paid off, but she admitted the first few weeks on the beat were "scary".
"I wasn't a worldly person - I'd never traveled, I'd never done anything," she said.
"I was hopeless on the computers and they used to get so frustrated with me."
Barbara accepted a 12-week position as the region's youth officer and still hasn't left.
"I absolutely love the position," she said.
"There are no bad kids, only bad parents. When children offend they come in front of me instead of going to court.
"I really enjoy the 16 to 17 year old kids because they are a little bit more mature and understand."
Barbara told the story of two girls in their early teens who were expelled from a Goulburn high school. After the school wouldn't let the girls return, the police officer stepped in and signed them up for distance education. She would take the girls to a cafe in Goulburn, buy them milkshakes, and help them with school work.
Her dedication to the position has resonated with countless children over the years.
"A lot of the kids, now over 18, bail me up and thank me on a Friday night at the pub," she said.
"It's nice to see them as adults."
After years of making a difference, the police officer has no plans to slow down.
"I've still got a lot of years left in me," she said.
"There are still a lot of lives I can help and change."
Barbara thanked local community services and groups for their help over the years. She made special mention of the Rotary Club and Mission Australia.
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