NAIDOC KELLYresize400After years of substance abuse and homelessness, Senior Constable Wendy Kelly faced one tragic night that altered the course of her life forever.

“One night in 1992, I had my throat cut by a bloke that I lived with and I ended up in Bridge House in detox, and that was the last time I had a drink. I haven’t had a drink now since 1992; it’s been 27 years.” 

Recalling her humble beginnings, Sen. Const. Kelly fondly describes her experience growing up in a non-indigenous family.

“I was a foster kid since I was 10 months old. I was fostered into a non-indigenous family and went to good schools. Got into trouble like normal kids, went to boarding school up in New Norcia pretty normal childhood.”

“I grew up in Perth, never thought I’d leave the city but I did. I’ve been away 18 and a half years now,” she said.

Years after being raised in a non-indigenous family, Sen. Const. Kelly reflected on her troubled childhood and harrowing past which led her on a journey to finding her identity.

“I grew up with a white family, they did really well with me and I wasn’t the easiest child either, I had a lot of problems,” she said. 

“It wasn’t until a lot later that it was a bit confusing in regards to finding out where I belonged.”

Her adult years were nothing short of terrifying which caused her to brave the storm in what would be some of the most difficult years of her life.

Sen. Const. Kelly explained how the confusion of trying to find out where she belonged caused her to go through an identity crisis.

“I had a bit of an identity crisis. I started drinking and slept on the streets for years in Perth,” she said.

Her resilience got her through the cruel and dark times and pushed her to discover her origins.

Desperately seeking to find her place in the world, Sen. Const. Kelly went on to connect with her biological family through community welfare.

“Somebody had told me about my (biological) father passing away and that’s when I met up with the brothers and sisters again. I’d met them over the years when I was younger through community welfare at the time, that’s when I left Perth and went down south to Burekup to be with my biological family. But it was weird because I wasn’t really fitting in there either.”

All the years of turmoil and confusion she faced placed her on the path to finding her vocation.

While growing up and also living on the streets of Perth for several years, Sen. Const. Kelly witnessed some of the turbulent relationships between Aboriginal people and police.

She decided she wanted a career where she could help make a difference.

“For me, it was wanting to help the Aboriginal people really. Because I know, not so much for me, but I know when I was growing up and even later in life, the treatment some people got from police was not nice,” she said.

“So I thought, well maybe now I can make a difference.”

Sen. Const. Kelly’s story has inspired many others to turn their lives around, one of which was a young girl from Perth struggling with substance abuse.

“I’ve had some successes, some not. Young people have listened to what I’ve said and have changed their lives.”

“There was a young girl who used to be sniffing,” she said.

“I told everybody my story one night, and she had left town and came back.

“She said to me ‘do you know why I don’t sniff anymore? Because of your story’.

“And to this day she still hasn’t. She’s grown into this beautiful young woman.”

Making significant contributions to the communities she’s served for many years, Sen. Const. Kelly expressed her passion for community policing.

“These areas you get to know everybody and work closely with them. You call people by their first names and they get to know you, I love it.”

She described how her previous role in Wiluna assisting police and the Aboriginal community to understand one another. 

“I get a lot of pleasure working with the communities and it’s very gratifying,” she said.

Due to all her incredible work over the years with local Aboriginal communities in Wiluna and Warakurna, Sen. Const. Kelly has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Australian Police Medal.

She holds high hopes for the future of bridging the gap between Aboriginal communities and police. She would like to see more non-indigenous police working within remote communities.

“I guess it’s more of getting the non-indigenous police out here and teaching them things, but also getting the cadets out here and getting them to learn about things,” she said.

Sen. Const. Kelly conveyed how she would like to show cadets the work she does in the remote community so they can be more informed about where they want to work.

Although she has achieved many great accomplishments, Sen. Const. Kelly revealed what her most desired outcome from her career would be.

“What I would see as a success is that all police officers do a cultural awareness. Really hammer that home to see all these communities as different they’re not all same. Having that awareness of what that culture is and respecting that culture,” she said.

Next month will be Sen. Const. Kelly’s 20-year anniversary of serving as a police officer.

She enjoys her work and finds it rewarding knowing her involvement is bridging the divide between Aboriginal communities and police.

Sen. Const. Kelly will receive her Australian Police Medal at Government House in September.