“Other people will come along, and in five years’ time people will say Muriel who? And that’s how it should be!”
For someone who has devoted so many years of her life to the cause of NSW Police Wives and Friends Support Group (affectionately known as “The Bear Ladies” in the Police Legacy office, where they have been meeting for many years now), Muriel Roy is surprisingly unattached to her own importance in the grand scheme of things.
“It’s a team,” she says firmly. “It’s a team effort.”
But Muriel’s police story begins before the existence of Police Wives and Friends. Indeed, it begins before the existence of NSW Police Legacy, when on a tragic night in 1967, Muriel’s husband Constable Colin Roy was killed in a motor vehicle collision on his way home from duty. With two young boys (aged just three years, and three months, respectively), Muriel had no choice but to go back to work and manage as best she could.
Muriel (left) hard at work with the NSW Police Wives and Friends Support Group, aka The Bear Ladies
Muriel had some family “halfway up the North Coast”, and some friends around her, and together they helped her through. The house she’d moved into just a few months before became home base, to the extent that she’s been there ever since, a remarkable story of community in this age of transience. And she got a job – because as a single mother she had to – working as clerical staff at Engadine High School.
One mate of Colin’s from the NSW Police Force was around for a while after his death, but he was transferred away, and Muriel, working hard with her head down as only a single mother with two young kids can do, lost touch with the Police Family. It wasn’t until after her retirement in 2002 that she reconnected.
A friend encouraged her to go along to a meeting of the Police Wives and Friends Group. She remembers walking into the room where a stranger turned to her and said “Hello, who are you? Well, come on then, sit here and talk to me!” And she did. And that was it.
“That was the reception I got,” she says. “The family just encompassed me. It’s just the way it is.” From that point on she was involved with Police Wives, and it was only a few years after that that she became Treasurer, a position that she’s held ever since.
It needs to be pointed out that being Treasurer of this group is not a matter of looking after the occasional coin bucket. Since the group began in 1987, they have raised an extraordinary amount for the Police Family – well in excess of $300,000. Anyone who’s been to an Attestation in recent years will recognise both the friendly faces of the volunteers, and the hallmark “Bears in Blue”, which have been the group’s mainstay for many years now.
And Muriel is justifiably proud of the fact that the group has not lost its drive or focus during the last two years of Covid chaos. “I can’t give them enough credit for what they did,” she says, referring to all the travelling that each member of the group did, converging on her house to continue construction of the bears. “Having a yarn, solving the problems of the day… having morning teas that lasted an hour!”, and at the end of it (of course!) producing record quantities of bears.
The group used to give grants directly to police families in trouble but changed their policy in 2018 to give all funds directly to Police Legacy, because they know and trust the work we do with the families. It’s hard to express the gratitude Police Legacy feels for that, on behalf of all the families assisted. We thank you Muriel, for your part in this, and we thank every one of the devoted souls who have crafted so much time and care over the years.