Civic-minded in and out of uniform

GERALD GUY HABERMANN

GERALD GUY HABERMANN

POLICE COMMANDER

25-3-1918 7-2-2012

By JULIE FAULKNER

FROM his birth in Burrumbuttock in New South Wales to his later life at Arthur's Seat, Guy Habermann lived, in his own words, a very fortunate life.

Born of German stock on the land, he moved with his family from their farm in the Riverina to Mentone during hard times.

Guy, who has died at Frankston Hospital following a stroke, aged 93, remembered his doughty mother providing live-in care for #2 a week while his unemployed father looked after him and his sister, Judy.

After Mordialloc Primary School and a short period at Scotch, where he loved only the sport, he worked at Sargoods furnishings in Flinders Lane, and as a teenager, accompanied a friend to a riding school in Toorak Road.

His distinguished work career was built on his love of horses, from his early jackarooing days to those in the mounted police.

His real education began in 1939 when he joined the Victorian Police Force after six months' probation his dreams were realised when, riding "bushman style", he was selected for the mounted branch. His first posting, at age 23, took him to Korumburra where, within two years, he was awarded the Chief Commissioner's Commendation for zeal and ability that led to the conviction of an armed and dangerous criminal.

In 1942, Guy married Dorothy (Doss) Kain, and after the birth of their first child, he was posted to Foster, where he set up a football team for the local boys, sowed seed potatoes, trapped rabbits, planted market gardens, and borrowed milking cows to make ends meet.

After the arrival of a second child, he was posted to Erica, where he revelled in local policing and riding the spectacular mountain country. But the mounted men were being phased out in favour of the car.

Now a senior constable and with three children, he returned to Melbourne, where his fitness, love of martial arts, boxing and wrestling led to him winning the middle and welterweight divisions at the Victorian wrestling championships.

After a period with the wireless patrol, he joined the vice squad and dealt with back street life in St Kilda. He then moved to the gaming branch, reconstituted after a corruption investigation and put under the charge of a young Mick Miller, who went on to become a highly respected chief commissioner. The goal was to eradicate the entrenched culture of canny SP bookies, two-up schools and smartly dressed baccarat operators, vividly described in his memoirs. The challenges of outwitting underground initiatives kept Guy stimulated and focused until he was promoted to inspector.

On holidays, he joined bush shooting expeditions to control wild pigs, goats, emus and kangaroos that were in plague proportions. He also went on crocodile safaris in north Queensland, where he also loved the trout and barramundi fishing.

By 1967, he was appointed officer in charge of the Mornington Peninsula. Recently divorced, he applied to command the fifth contingent of the Australian contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus. Tensions were high between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and single men were preferred. He fell in love with Cyprus and its people, and he communicated his impressions in descriptive letters to Val Faulkner, whom he married a year after his return to Australia. Promotion to superintendent in charge of Maroondah district was soon followed by another promotion to chief superintendent in charge of the Melbourne district. It was a tumultuous time politically: anti-Vietnam war sentiment was high and there were many violent protests over the building of the F19 (Eastern) freeway.

He rose to commander in charge of the Melbourne metropolitan area before retiring at the mandatory age of 60 with the Queen's Police Service and the Queen's Jubilee medals, the Australian National Medal, the Queen's medal for exemplary service, and several United Nations honours.

In retirement he became an accomplished painter, and loved the rhythms of dancing and poetry. He built a home at Arthur's Seat, created a botanical garden out of the ridge face, played tennis and golf, rode weekly, and travelled extensively with Val.

They were also active members of the Probus club at Safety Beach, and he always sought new projects in which to immerse himself and invested in an animal conservation venture, Sunday Island, at Wilsons Promontory. With Guy at the forefront, a working community of 200 people built a jetty, fenced and conserved deer.

Until his first stroke at 90, he lived a life that would exhaust much younger men. In Mick Miller's words, Guy was "larger than life . . . of strong character with a capacity to influence. He was a disciplinarian who cared for his people".

Guy died after a second stroke, three years after the first and exactly 73 years after he joined the police force. He is survived by his three children, Peter, Kerry and Toni, and Val's children, Julie, Leigh and Kaye.

Related Articles