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Getting to know the faces behind modern AFP recruits

As the AFP closes in on its 40th year, today we meet some of our newest recruits – the police men and women and protective service officers who are the future of the Australian Federal Police.

AFP Commissioner Colvin told the latest group of recruits, "in law enforcement you get to see the very best, and the very worst of our society".

Often that is certainly true - policing is not a career for the faint-hearted. Nor is the intense, and at times very gruelling, recruit training program.

Hannah's story

Speaking at her recent graduation ceremony, Recruit Hannah Gordon, told how 25 excited, fresh-faced individuals, aged 18-48, reported for their first day of training at the AFP College late last year.

"Now we've finally made it to the end of 26 tough, stressful, challenging, exciting and rewarding weeks of training," Hannah said in front of proud family and friends on graduation day.

And after more than six months living well out of their comfort zone, the 25 who started the course reduced to the 19 who were ultimately sworn in by the Commissioner.

"The recruit program has without a doubt been hard work. We've battled through weeks of operational safety training, we've been batoned and handcuffed and experienced the dreaded OC (pepper) spray. We've been pushed to our limits in what seemed like hundreds of early morning physical training sessions. We studied hard to pass all our exams and we all worked together through challenging practical scenarios," Hannah said.

"As a result, we have not only gained many skills but we have formed some lifelong memories and friendships."

Hannah Gordon epitomises many of today's AFP recruits. She is physically fit, having competed in a Golden Gloves boxing tournament and she has completed two bachelor degrees at university. She also has a desire to do something positive for her community and the nation.

"I am intrigued by the criminal mind and what drives people to commit crime, and I would like to use this interest in criminal psychology to help prevent crime and help the community."

Hannah completed her studies in criminology and psychology only weeks before she joined the AFP.

Leaving her family behind in Queensland and completing firearms training with no previous firearms experience have been amongst her biggest challenge to date.

Hannah is now enjoying working at Tuggeranong Police Station in Canberra's south. Her longer-term goals include gaining her detective designation and spending time working in the Watch House.

"The AFP, being so widespread and covering countless different capabilities, means that as a member you are given so many diverse opportunities. I see the AFP as the best place for me to experience a wide range of roles in my career, with so many great opportunities for career development."

Female police officer shaking hands with the AFP Commissioner
It's official: AFP member Hannah Gordon on graduation day with AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

Dako's story

Dako Ceko's was a young boy when his family moved to Australia to escape the civil war in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

Dako says "Australia has been great to me, so joining the AFP was a way to join a profession that serves the community and gives something back".

He took a very different path to most before joining the AFP, where his first posting is helping to protect Australia's Federal Parliament, and those who work inside and visit the building.

When he left school, aged 19, Dako started his own business as a self-employed builder.

"I worked on the tools during the day and the paperwork at night," Dako said. "After five years of building, I decided to change my career for two reasons; one was in the hope of a better work-life balance, and the other was to try a new and interesting career.

"The opportunities within the AFP are unique and interesting, and the potential for growth and development in this career can't be found in any other sector."

Male Protective Service Officer shaking hands with the AFP Commissioner
Graduation day: AFP member Dako Ceko with AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

Eli's story

Eli Blatz says he always wanted a job with the police. "This was always where I wanted to be."

And Eli knows all about hard work, joining the AFP after having been a construction worker in Queensland. "The AFP's training might be challenging but surely it can't be harder than that."

"I also completed half a degree in podiatry before I eventually came to my senses and joined the AFP. I don't know how I thought dealing with feet every day was going to be a satisfying career," Eli said.

Eli is enjoying his first role with AFP's Protective Services where "everyone has been really welcoming" and he would like to explore future opportunities with ACT Policing.

And his advice to anyone considering a career with the AFP?  

"I'd recommend the AFP to everyone but if you're thinking of joining, I'd suggest improving your cardio – the PT staff take no prisoners."

Male Protective Service Officer shaking hands with the AFP Commissioner
Graduation day: AFP member Eli Blatz with AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

Bernadette's story

Before joining the AFP, Bernadette Ceza worked for NSW Corrective Services. The prospect of working internationally in the future was an important consideration in her making the switch.

And Bernadette has already enjoyed success overseas, winning international titles in her biggest passion outside of work – body building.

Currently employed at Belconnen Police Station, Bernadette is enjoying learning the ropes in general duties, however, she also aspires to become a detective in future years.

Female police officer shaking hands with the AFP Commissioner
Graduation day: AFP member Bernadette Ceza with AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin.
Female body builder posing in a swimsuit
Off duty: Bernadette Ceza has won international titles in her biggest passion outside of work – body building.

Karly's story

Karly Denmead's father was a police officer in Victoria, so in many ways, keeping the community safe is in her blood.

"While growing up I always admired what dad did. I personally want to help people in our community and make a positive contribution," Karly said.

In applying to join the AFP, Karly chose to give away a career in teaching, in what has been a significant change in career direction.

"I see so many opportunities for career progression in the AFP, across so many different locations.

And I hold the same values as the AFP, so it makes the organisation an easy choice to work for."

While it is early days in her new career, Karly has an interest in protecting children from harm and national investigations.

In the past, Karly lists one of her biggest achievements as winning a fishing competition when she landed a 114 centimetre barramundi on the Victoria River in the Northern Territory. For the foreseeable future, however, her priorities will be catching crooks and not taking the bait from her cheeky work colleagues.

A female Protective Service Officer in uniform on duty
On duty: AFP member Karly Denmead.
Female Protective Service Officer shaking hands with the AFP Commissioner
Graduation day: AFP member Karly Denmead with AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin.
A female sitting in a boat holding a big fish
Off the hook: In the past, Karly Denmead lists one of her biggest achievements as winning a fishing competition when she landed a 114 centimetre barramundi in the NT.

Carissa's story

Carissa Digby's family has a military background but she is the first to work in law enforcement.

Before joining the AFP she served in the Navy for four years and performed a variety of roles in the public service.

"I chose law enforcement as I want to feel like I'm contributing to something bigger, as well as having a personal sense of achievement with the work that I do," Carissa said.

"The AFP also provides an opportunity to move and work around Australia and overseas. There is such a great range of opportunities."

Her first posting is in Canberra but after six months she will relocate to Exmouth in WA. "For anyone thinking of a career with the AFP; push yourself, have faith in yourself and stick with it."

Female Protective Service Officer shaking hands with the AFP Commissioner
Graduation day: AFP member Carissa Digby with AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

A final word

In her graduation day address, Hannah Gordon, talked of her dream of becoming a police officer, a dream shared by her fellow graduates.

"I know that we all stand proud, not only today, but every time we wear this uniform, as it is a great privilege and an honour to be a member of the AFP.

"Although this is the end of our recruit journey, we will continue to learn and hone our skills throughout our entire careers. We will be the ones that people see on the worst day of their lives.

"But remember, you have been chosen for this role because you can handle the challenges that policing will throw at you.

"Be confident in your training; be firm in your values, be committed to your goals."

The Australian Federal Police is currently recruiting for Protective Service Officers. For more information visit the AFP website or email [email protected].