Every legatee comes to NSW Police Legacy in their own way. Senior Constable Sean Tobin has an involvement with the charity that stretches back to the last century.
He joined the NSW Police Force in 1991, and didn’t know too much about Police Legacy until 1995, when his Commander at Blacktown (a man known very well to us as Life Member Bob Waites) encouraged him to find out a bit more about the then-young charity.
In 1999, Sean started seeing a young police officer called Tara McLaughlin, whose friend had invited her to be a supervisor on a Police Legacy camp. She went along and enjoyed it so much that she became a regular, volunteering on at least one camp a year after that. After being involved in this way for several years, she became a NSW Police Legacy Board Member in 2007.
Needless to say, Sean’s knowledge of, and appreciation for, Legacy’s work grew over this time, as he heard stories from Tara about the positive affect that camps were having on the kids. “I think she just saw the value in these kids keeping in touch with the police family,” he says. She was there long enough to see the kids grow and mature, and develop the lifelong friendships that truly define our young legatee’s lives.
Tara’s involvement as a camp supervisor dwindled with the birth of the couple’s first child, Harry, in 2009, and then stopped with the birth of their second, Flynn, in 2011, but she remained active on the Board. Tragically, in 2013 Tara was diagnosed with cancer, and in 2015 she died. She had just qualified for the rank of sergeant at the time of her diagnosis, but was never well enough to take up the position in an active capacity. She was awarded the rank posthumously.
With Tara’s untimely death, NSW Police Legacy became much more of an active force in Sean’s life. Over the years, Harry and Flynn benefited from education grants, and became active participants in Legacy activities. Harry loves going on camp. Flynn loves the Kids’ Christmas parties. And they both enjoy participating in a ritual that honours their mother’s legacy – the Tara’s Gift Award.
This award was created to honour Tara’s memory and her special connection with the young Police Legatees in her care on camp, and recognises those legatees that display leadership skills and compassion. The award is presented at the January Adventure Camp by Sean, Harry, and Flynn, and this choice of location is quite a deliberate one.
“The recipient is among their peers when they receive it,” says Sean. “You have some of the younger ones look at it and think, I want that! What do I have to do to get that?” It’s a true reflection of Tara’s focus on legatee welfare, and instilling those strong values of leadership and compassion in the next generation.
Sean loves seeing Tara’s memory honoured in this way, and he also loves being able to bring the police family connection to some of the kids who don’t have that so strongly because of the loss of their police parent. When he went out to present the award this January, he went across to the camp on a police boat, and one of the crewing officers was able to tell a young legatee that he used to work with his dad. “He just lit up,” says Sean, smiling at the memory. “That stuff is so important.”
Sean wants to break down the old stereotype that still persists. When people hear that a child has lost a police parent, they mainly assume it was the father who was serving. “I think a lot of fathers would get a lot out of it if they brought their kids along to Legacy,” he says. While he knows that everyone at NSW Police Legacy is pushing to make that change too, he’d like to see it taken up by more male parents who’ve been left behind. Sean, we’re with you one hundred percent, and we feel your gift might be as invaluable as Tara’s.