29 May How a Charleville policewoman is using bush poetry to help save lives on the road
Bush poetry and policing might not appear to have much in common but Senior Constable Juliet McGrath says putting the two together is proving an effective way to get the message out about road safety in outback Queensland.
Senior Constable McGrath enjoyed writing poetry as a teenager but says after high school she rarely put pen to paper.
That changed last year after the Charleville policewoman saw two bush poets perform in Winton and found herself inspired.
“I just love the old bush yarns and the feeling of being able to sit back and listen to such wonderful rhyme and storytelling,” she said.
“Poetry is about storytelling and you can put so much feeling and emotion into it.”
Since then whenever Senior Constable McGrath has an idea for a poem she jots it down as quickly as possible.
“I scribble things down on little random pieces of paper if I have an idea, and sometimes it comes together and sometimes it doesn’t,” she said.
“I tend to write about real things, I don’t tend to write about things I haven’t experienced.
“I get a topic and in my head it starts to come out in rhyme … they’re usually about things like wild dog problems or to do with my work, so that’s where the latest poems come from.”
One of her recent poems – about road safety in outback Queensland – has become a feature of her road safety presentations as part of the campaign ‘Stay on Track Outback’.
The campaign aims to educate people about the unique hazards on outback roads, such as kangaroos and road trains.
“I tend to just start [my presentations] with the poem, I don’t give them too much introduction … I like that shock value a bit,” she said.
“Certainly there’s some strange looks on people’s faces because I think they can’t quite believe that there’s a police officer standing in front of them saying a poem about road safety, of all topics.”
She says road safety is an easy topic for her to write about.
“I think if it’s a subject you’re passionate about and something that you have a fair bit of knowledge about it seems to just flow out and onto the paper sometimes,” she said.
As for what her police colleagues think?
“The few that have heard it … I think they’re a little bit amazed and they probably do think I’m a little bit nutty to try and join my policing job with my poetry,” she said.
“But somehow it’s worked and so far the reception has been really, really good.”
Senior Constable Juliet McGrath from Charleville has written a poem about road safety.