Picture this: you’re eight years old, riding right up the front of an inflatable dinghy, water splashing everywhere as you speed across Sydney Harbour. You turn to the police officer at the back of the boat and say, “Go faster!”
When I ask Brendon Speechley about his favourite memory of being involved in NSW Police Legacy functions this is what comes to his mind. It takes him a while to narrow it down though. “I have lots of fond memories,” he says. “So many of them!”
Brendon’s been involved with NSW Police Legacy for nearly twenty years. His father, Detective Sergeant Mark Speechley, died when he was just four years old, and he and his mother drew immediate comfort from Police Legacy’s support. “When we’d just lost Dad, to have a support officer from Legacy come out and have tea and just talk and play a bit of music – it just put a smile on our faces.”
As an older child, Brendon really appreciated the unique opportunity for friendship presented by Police Legacy outings and adventure camps. It’s not that the kids in his school didn’t know about his situation, but most of them didn’t know how to respond. “A lot of people were sympathetic, but not so many were empathetic,” he says. Being on camp with a whole group of kids who understood and accepted what he’d been through meant the world to him.
His next big life change was an incredibly positive one. Awarded a Sean Burns Scholarship, he not only received money for sporting equipment, but formed a personal relationship with the Burns family. They generously gave him some of their hiking equipment, which enabled him to take up the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge through RSL. In 2016, age just seventeen and recovering from a “pretty gnarly” cricket injury, he completed the Kokoda Trail. He learned a lot – about himself, about history, and about the true meaning of courage.
“You can read the Kokoda book by Peter FitzSimons, but you can’t feel the rain on your head,” he says wryly. Because it rained. A lot. Every day, just about the time you were starting to feel good about yourself and the dry clothes in your backpack. “If you can get through Kokoda, you can get through pretty much anything. Ever.”
And hasn’t he got through a lot since then! In 2019, after high school, he took a gap year in the UK, where he played cricket for a club in England. Not professionally, he hastens to tell me, but he was housed and given work opportunities, and spent three or four days a week playing cricket (not a bad wicket!) Returning to Australia, he enrolled in a Bachelor of Business at Western Sydney University, where he continued to parlay his sporting passion through work placements, including with the Parramatta Eels, where he really got a sense of the positive changes that could be made in the community.
After graduation, he found himself “living every twenty-something male’s dream”, working for an online betting company and getting paid to watch sport every day. Next on his career ladder, and where he finds himself happily installed now, was QBE Insurance. It’s not something he ever anticipated, but after spending a little time talking with Brendon, it makes perfect sense. “I love problem solving,” he says. “I love getting on the phone and helping people.”
And his plans to help include Police Legacy, naturally. With things continuing to open up at this moment in the pandemic, he’s planning to get involved in mentoring, giving back to the family that’s given so much to both him and his mother. “While the circumstances that led up to me being involved obviously aren’t ideal, I’m so grateful for the time and effort Legacy have put into us,” he concludes. Brendon, we’re sure you’ll be paying it back. In spades.