When I call Margie, she’s just finished cutting her son’s hair. She’s worried it might be a bit short, but on the other hand “with lockdown there’s extra time to grow it out before he has to go back to school!” Senior Constable Margaret Richardson is pretty good at the silver lining. She’s had to be.
She’s been in the NSW Police Force since 1999, working in metro and country policing. Since 2010 she’s worked as an intelligence officer in Port Stephens Hunter, having transferred back to the region she grew up in to help out with her aging father. In 2016, her husband, Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson was killed in a car accident, leaving her with a 7-year-old child and a 5-month-old baby.
Until then, NSW Police Legacy hadn’t been much more than a name to her. She’d signed up at the Academy for her regular payroll donation and “like all the rest of the probationary constables,” didn’t think much more about it. And then 2016 came along. “It wasn’t until I was put in a position that Legacy became a part of my life that I really understood what they did,” she says.
Margie with Patrick and Aiden
At the time, she had a very supportive group of friends, but nobody could fully understand her experience. That all changed when she went to her first Police Legacy event, a family picnic day at Parramatta Park. “I met the most wonderful group of women who just wrapped their arms around me and drew me in.” She felt an immediate sense of kinship. They understood. (The friendships formed on that very first day remain so strong that the same group still goes away together each year).
That sense of belonging extends well and truly to her children as well. On the eve of his first Police Legacy camp, her eldest child was flat out refusing to go. At the time he’d been coming home from school asking questions like “They’ve all got dads, why don’t I?” Margie was able to sit down with him and explain that this camp was different. On this camp there would be a bunch of children just like him – all of whom had lost a mum or a dad. He listened. He went on camp. He loved it.
He’s loved it ever since (and at the time of writing, he was cursing COVID for preventing him from going on the much-anticipated midyear camp). And Margie loves this sense of connection that it gives him, this sense of excitement and belonging. She can see the lifelong connections that all the kids develop.
When I ask her if she has a favourite Legacy moment, she shouts “God there’s been so many!”, before listing Balls, Harbour Bridge Climbs, camps, Luna Park adventures. And then she reflects that actually, it might be the “quiet stuff”. Moments when life seems too much, and she feels like she can just pick up the phone and have someone from Police Legacy help her through. No judgement, just support. “I wish that more people knew what Legacy does without having to go through what we had to go through to find out.”