Volunteer Robin Dampier in  police uniform standing in front of a Caroline Springs Police Sign

Our partner schools and students enjoy all of the organisations that participate in Ardoch’s Literacy Buddies® program, but there is one that generates an extra buzz of excitement among students: Victoria Police. Over the last five years, hundreds of children at our partner primary schools have jumped with joy at receiving a personal letter from their Big Buddy who works for the police. This year, we are partnering four police stations – Geelong, Sunshine, Footscray and Caroline Springs/Melton – with schools in their neighbourhoods through our letter exchange program.

Acting Sergeant Robin Dampier, who is currently stationed at Caroline Springs Police Station, has been instrumental in rallying support for the program in Melbourne’s western suburbs. He has been coordinating the program for Sunshine Police Station (where he was stationed until a few months ago) for the last four years, and has encouraged Footscray and Caroline Springs Police Stations to sign up as well.

Every year, he promotes the programs with his colleagues, gets them to sign up, ensures they send their letters on time, and has organised the visits between the policemen and their Little Buddies. A Big Buddy himself, he has secretly filled in for his colleagues when sudden work commitments have prevented them from writing their letters on time.

Robin believes the program does as much for the policemen and women as it does for the children. “Unfortunately, most people only encounter the police in stressful situations. The Literacy Buddies® is a great way for us to interact with the community – especially children – in a normal, non-stressful way,” he explained.

Robin has tried to make the program interactive and engaging for the Little Buddies. Every year, when the Little Buddies come to visit the workplace, the Big Buddies take them around the station and have a barbecue lunch with them. Then they participate in a mock courtroom drama over a “stolen sausage” with the Little Buddies playing the judge, the public prosecutor, the accused, the witnesses and other characters. The Big Buddies help their Little Buddies to understand their role and enact them. The purpose is to help the students comprehend concepts of guilt and culpability.

“It is amazing how intelligent children are,” remarked Robin. “Some of the questions they ask about the justice system and police procedures really show how deeply they think about issues of justice.”

Robin’s commitment to community engagement also arises out of being a part of the Proactive Police Unit, which as the name suggests, proactively builds engagement with different communities such as new immigrants, youth, LGBTI communities and more. Apart from coordinating the Literacy Buddies program, he has also participated in Ardoch’s Mock Interviews and Learning Through Lunch programs, interacting and guiding children with their social and communications skills and aspirations.

“Victoria Police is different from how people often perceive it. It is very diverse, multicultural and really keen on building bridges with different sections of Victorian society,” said Robin. “My dream is that one day I am tapped on the shoulder and someone says to me, ‘Remember me, I used to be your Little Buddy’,” said the 56-year-old.

We thank Robin for his wonderful contributions to the children in disadvantaged communities.