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    CUT ABOVE: A desire to make an impact in his community led Senior Constable Tom McGrath away from the shearing sheds to a career in policing.

No wool over Tom’s eyes

A passion for helping his community was the catalyst for Senior Constable Tom McGrath’s switch from farm life to frontline.

A fourth-generation farmer on his family’s 103-year-old broadacre Murtoa property, Sen Const McGrath grew up helping with planting and harvesting wheat, barley and lentil crops and managing thousands of sheep.

After high school, he was encouraged into the shearing sheds by his father, where he quickly built his skills with a handpiece – and a high tolerance for hard work.

“It was one of the hardest things I can remember doing physically, finding that I couldn’t stand after 10 minutes, and then realising there was another seven hours and 50 minutes of the day left,” Sen Const McGrath recalls.

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“It was very challenging mentally and physically, although that feeling of pushing your body to the limits is addictive.

“I would work on shearing one sheep every two minutes, which included the catching and dragging of the sheep.

“When you see the sheep come into the shed with their wool on and then see them out the back freshly shorn, that’s really satisfying, because you can visually appreciate your efforts for the day.”

With a huge shortage of experienced shearers worldwide, Sen Const McGrath travelled around Australia and overseas for work, finding new jobs within minutes through social media groups. And with the industry paying per sheep shorn, it’s lucrative work for skilled shearers.

But with a strong interest in advocacy work and working towards ‘the betterment of society’, he knew his true calling lay outside the farm gates.

“Back home in the Wimmera I was involved with youth advisory councils and young farmer councils,” Sen Const McGrath said.

“I get a lot of joy from being able to assist and advocate for people, sometimes people that aren’t able to help themselves.   

“I asked myself, ‘How can I do this rewarding work while getting paid?’, and I thought ‘Hey, I can join Victoria Police’.

“So, I went through the Academy doors in 2019 and that was my goal, to get into community engagement work.” 

Sen Const McGrath admits he found general duties policing a challenge, as he juggled his empathy towards all people, even those who ‘struggle to make good decisions’, with his duty to enforce the law.

After completing short stints at Preston and Epping police stations along his policing journey, Sen Const McGrath now works in Transit and Public Safety Command’s Transit Proactive Unit, which suits him ‘to a tee’.

His role involves community engagement operations such as Safe PL8, where police hand out anti-theft number plate screws while chatting with the community, and discussing rail safety at train stations with kids and adults alike.

“It’s very rewarding being able to help and advocate for others, especially when the outcome will be a positive one,” Sen Const McGrath said.

While enjoying his current role, Sen Const McGrath said he was a country boy at heart, and the pull to return to his rural roots was strong.

He still helps out on the farm, using his nine weeks’ leave each year to pitch in with shearing and other tasks.

“Ideally, I’ll build my policing skills here in Melbourne, to be able to transfer to a country station in the next three to four years,” he said.

“I don’t have a specific area in mind, but I would prefer a smaller station where I can really get to know the local community.”

And while his career means he’s now hundreds of kilometres from the Wimmera, Sen Const McGrath said the skills he mastered on the farm have given him the confidence to handle anything that comes his way.

“I’ve wrestled 140kg sheep around the shearing shed and out in the open paddock, so there’s not much that phases me,” he said.

· First published in Police Life magazine. For more, visit

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