On the blog: Educating Canberra's kids on staying safe

Stewart Waters has been Constable Kenny Koala’s handler for the last 15 years, educating children on how to stay safe in our community.

Prior to joining the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in 2002, Stewart worked in Central West NSW for 27 years before moving to Canberra to work in a fibre optics factory in Symonston.

During his time with ACT Policing, Stewart has expanded the Constable Kenny program by introducing the ACT community to new friends of Constable Kenny. Constable Kenny and his friends deliver strategies for kids to use to Stay OK at school, online, in the community, on the road and in life. Stewart has also contributed to the revamp of Constable Kenny’s website, and keeping classroom educational resources current to reflect curriculum objectives. Most recently Stewart has provided input and support when Constable Kenny branched out into the social media world with his own Twitter and YouTube accounts.

Stewart has been recognised for his dedication and promotion of the program.  In 2005 he received the Commissioner’s Commendation for Conspicuous Conduct. In 2012 Stewart received the AFP Service Medal for 10 years of service and that same year, was nominated for the Australia Day Medal and received the Australia Day Achievement Medallion. Sadly the AFP will be saying farewell to Stewart when he retires in July 2017.

I joined ACT Policing nearly 15 years ago as Constable Kenny’s off-sider and over the years we have formed a strong bond which some people say is a bit weird. Mind you, I don’t have a problem with that because, to work with Constable Kenny you must believe in him and because I believed in him it made it easier to engage with children.

One of our more memorable moments together was when we were at a preschool talking to the children about road safety. As we all know, children say it how it is. It was the last session of the day, and many of the parents were present.  When we reinforced the fact you had to wear a seatbelt when travelling in a vehicle one of the children turned to his father and said “see dad I told you that you have to wear a seatbelt!” Needless to say everyone turned around and we found one very red faced father shrinking back in his seat.

I am extremely proud to have been a part of the Constable Kenny program and to have been able to assist in moving the program forward. Over the years I have constantly reviewed the lesson plans to ensure that they meet both educational and community expectations. I am grateful for the opportunity to see the effect the program has had and continues to have on the thousands of children Constable Kenny has spoken to. To be honest just to see the delight on the children’s faces when we visit is magic in itself.

The introduction of Constable Kenny to the world of electronic media would not have happened without the assistance of the fantastic Communications Team who enabled the smooth transition from the basic website we originally had, to the user friendly and much more interactive site we now have. This has enabled the program to be utilised anywhere and we often have invitations from interstate schools and organisations, asking us to visit because they see the program as an ideal way of presenting safety messages to children.

We even once had an invitation from a Los Angeles childcare asking if Constable Kenny could visit and we would have gone, but for the fact Constable Kenny’s pocket money didn’t stretch that far. In saying that, Constable Kenny has been lucky to travel overseas to China twice, once to visit police in the Chaoyang district to see how safety messages are presented by police in schools and once on holidays where he made lots of new friends including a cute Panda named Rose.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and it is a little sad to say that this is mine because I am retiring.  I will miss the little fella because we have had some fantastic times together.

I will be handing over the reins to David Packwood who is looking forward to working with Constable Kenny and over the coming years will be able to take the Constable Kenny program to the next level. Someone asked what my words of advice for David are, (probably David himself) and I just have a few: enjoy what you do and that enjoyment will have a flow on effect to those around you.