Ararat senior sergeant closes book on 33 year career

ARARAT - Senior Sergeant Matthew Wood handed in his badge earlier this month, closing the book on a decorated 33-year career with Victoria Police.

Mr Wood has now taken on a number of roles with the Ararat Rural City, including the new emergency services manager, local laws manager and organisational risk manager.

Mr Wood has achieved plenty in more than three decades of police work, however he said if it wasn't for his father he may have taken a different career path.

"I was going to be a jackaroo, he didn't think that would be a good career move, so he got me interested by pointing out an ad in The Age," he said.

"I distinctly remember getting an ironing lesson from my mother the night before I was due to go. It was a bit of a learning experience as 16 and half year old kid from Swan Hill moving down to Melbourne to become a police cadet."

On February 1, 1979 Mr Wood began his journey to becoming a police officer.

He graduated from the Victorian Police Academy in 1981 and moved quite frequently around stations during the early days.

"I hopped around at the start of my career fairly significantly," Mr Wood said.

"Kew was my training station and then I spent some time at Russell Street and in the Independent Parole Group. Then the lure of home got me and I went back to Swan Hill for two and a half years, which was great."

After spending time in Swan Hill Mr Wood decided to pursue a career as a detective and transferred to the Richmond Police Station, where he was selected to do special duties with the plain clothed squad.

During this time he also worked out of Prahran, Collingwood and was lucky enough to get a place at Dandenong Criminal Investigation Branch.

After a few years Mr Wood moved to Rosebud CIB as a detective senior constable and once again rose through the ranks.

"I got promoted to sergeant at transit police and worked there for a little while and then a little girl got murdered at Rosebud called Sheree Beasly," he said.

"I was lucky enough to get seconded, supposedly for two weeks for that task force to investigate the murder, but I ended up 14 months later as a detective sergeant at the homicide squad on the Zenith task force."

Mr Wood said the jailing of Robert Arthur Selby Lowe for life with no parole for the murder of the six-year-old in 1991 was one of his professional highlights.

"That was a very complicated and drawn out investigation, but it was very much a team effort and I was happy to be a part of that team," he said.

After the case was solved Mr Wood went back to uniform as a sergeant at Narre Warren, before also taking up positions at Frankston and Rosebud.

With three young children, Mr Wood and his wife Donna - also a police officer - decided a tree change was in order.

"I always wanted to bring my children up in the bush, being a country boy myself and Donna was happy to come and so went went up to Yarrawonga," Mr Wood said.

"We spent nine years there and it was a great spot. We had a police house on Lake Mulwala, had our own private jetty and our own boat lift, it was just a magnificent place to work and live, but I always knew that I didn't want to be 55 years of age being called out to a drunken 18 year old, as you do when you are at small stations and on call over night."

That was the motivation for Mr Wood to take a promotion and he moved his family to Ararat in 2005 to take post as the Senior Sergeant at the Ararat Police Station.

Mr Wood became renowned for his strong stance on street policing.

Some of the first headlines seen in the Ararat Advertiser when Mr Wood began work focused around a no tolerance level for antisocial behaviour.

He believes Ararat was ahead of the game, with antisocial behaviour and alcohol fuelled violence currently a key focus within the Victorian Police around the state.

Mr Wood said he has taken great pride in developing the members of Ararat, who under him have been promoted to senior sergeants, detective sergeants, and been able to pursue careers in the higher parole and CIU.

"I've always maintained that if you care about the community and the place you work then you will go outside yourself to ensure the safety of the community," he said.

"Really I am very proud of the members of Ararat, they do care about Ararat and when you put your heart and soul into something you usually succeed."

Mr Wood said the timing was now right for him to leave the police force, with his Police Superannuation Scheme maxing out.

"In order for me to get more in my superannuation I would have had to take a promotion and move, I didn't want to do that," he said.

"I like Ararat, I think it is a good, supportive town that has a lot of heart."

The various roles that Mr Wood will now take on in his new line of work include looking at the emergency management plan within the municipality, looking at strategic risks that will stop the local government from achieving their goals and assessing the Occupational Health and Safety framework at an operational level.

Mr Wood said before he moves on to the next chapter of his life there are plenty of people he needs to thank.

"I'd really like to thank my wife Donna and my three children, who have been fantastic support for me over the years of policing and had to put up with some pretty heavy stuff at various times. They have been unfailing in their support of me," he said.

"I thank the community of Ararat for having the patience and understanding that we are actually there to assist them and 99.9 percent of the time the community of Ararat is very supportive of the police and I thank them for that.

"I'm very confident whoever takes over from me will continue the good work, and I would especially like to thank the sergeants at the Ararat Police Station who have been fantastic in their support and loyalty to me as a management group.

"Also, the men and women who work at the police station, who do the work out there in the middle of the night and put up with the dramas, manage the critical incidents and by and large are what separates Ararat Police Station members from a lot of other stations - They really care about the community and go that extra mile to help.

"They have all been fantastic and I have thoroughly enjoyed it."

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