Canberra’s last remaining police officer from the days when the organisation was known as ACT Police, Detective Sergeant Garry Noble, is part of the fabric of the organisation and there is now a piece of fabric that pre-dates his 43 years of policing in Canberra.
A police officer since March 1977, Det Sgt Noble has no intentions of retiring but when he does, a handmade tapestry of the ACT Police badge hanging at Canberra City Police Station will be a lasting reminder.
The 1-metre by 1.5-metre tapestry is now woven into the story of community policing in Canberra after ACT Police became ACT Policing on 19 October, 1979, with the beginning of the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
Det Sgt Noble says he is happy to see something older than he is, with the tapestry being displayed outside the Superintendent and OIC offices at Canberra City Police Station as a legacy to ACT Police, which enforced the law in Canberra from 1957 to 1979.
“Seeing the tapestry there means quite a lot as it’s where I turned up for my first day in 1977,” says Det Sgt Noble, who now works on police briefs of evidence at the City Station.
“I came to ACT Police after finishing high school at Tumut and I walked through the front door. The Commissioner came down and swore me in, and while the little parade room has changed a bit, you still walk through the front entrance which is the same.”
The ACT Police badge tapestry was commissioned by retired Senior Constable Russell Perkins in 1984. It has been proudly displayed in Russell’s home until his wife, Robyn, gifted it to ACT Policing this year.
Senior Constable Perkins joined ACT Police on 3 June, 1974, but was injured and retired on 19 July, 1983. He died on 29 October, 2019, and had kept in touch with ACT Police though a Facebook page he created for ex-ACT Police members.
The year after he left the AFP, he went to a craft show with Robyn and found a stallholder selling a rug with a Victorian police badge.
“Russell decided he wanted something to commemorate ACT Police,” says Robyn. “He asked if the man could make an ACT Police badge and he did.
“He loved ACT Police so much he created a Facebook page for ex-ACT Police members – those who were in ACT Police and those who went off to the AFP.
“That now has about 140 members who are most of the ex-members who know how to use a computer. They are networking, talking, sharing stories and having a great time, which is what Russell wanted.”
ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan travelled to the NSW Central Coast in August this year to pick up the tapestry and meet Robyn.
Robyn says her husband was passionate about serving his community as a police officer
“It’s all he ever wanted to be from when he was a little boy – it was his lifetime dream,” she says.
“At the time he got into the police force, he got into both the ACT and NSW Police Force, and he selected to come to the ACT, which was his decision.”
Det Sgt Noble has worked in almost all of the stations in Canberra, along with a stint overseas in Cyprus. He says the stories of policing in Canberra are a rich part of the city’s history.
“If you originate from ACT Police, you understand it’s something you always like to carry with you because it’s that community and that traditional form of policing,” he says.
“It’s always good to talk to guys such as Barry Dobson and various other senior ACT Police officers over the years.
“There’s also a lot of the old photos appearing on the walls now, too, such as Johnny Hebron, who was the driving instructor in 1977; Don Barnby, who was one of the original motorcyclists; and Vic Young, who used to be a watchhouse sergeant.
“It’s good to see and it brings back a lot of good memories. The tapestry is a great part of that.”