Law week: Today’s leadership builds tomorrow’s strength

Joining the QPS at 18, Superintendent Virginia Nelson never imagined her career would take her where it has today.

Superintendent Nelson believes mentoring is the key to building leadership.

Since the day she joined, Superintendent Nelson has served across Queensland performing a variety of different roles but her ultimate passion lies in developing the leadership of her officers to serve the community the best they possibly can.

Superintendent Nelson’s journey however, started where every officer’s journey starts – performing general duties and serving Queensland communities.

“I began my career in Maryborough and since then I’ve served throughout the Central Region, in Brisbane and in specialist areas such as the Operational Support and State Crime Commands,” Superintendent Nelson said.

Superintendent Nelson said she had been fortunate with the opportunities she has had throughout her career, but it has also taken courage to take advantage of the opportunities.

“Something I will always remember is being the Police Commander for Talisman Sabre which saw around 30,000 Defence Force troops deployed to Shoalwater Bay for a training exercise.

“We were responsible for their security and safety, and it was unlike anything I have ever been part of,” Superintendent Nelson said.

With the highlights though, also come the tough times and Superintendent Nelson has seen her fair share with Tropical Cyclone Marcia and the 2017 floods coming to mind.

But, in the middle of this, Superintendent Nelson was selected to take part in a secondment with the Australian Institute of Police Management.

“This was the first time I knew my leadership was having a true impact. I was tasked with travelling to the Solomon Islands among other places to deliver leadership programs to their senior management – can you imagine that?”

While also in the Central Region, Superintendent Nelson was nominated by the State Member for Rockhampton for the Telstra Business Women of the Year award.

“It was so unexpected I received an email and actually deleted it because I didn’t think it applied to me.

“They were persistent though and I filled out the information required and I didn’t give it much thought after that,” Superintendent Nelson said.

Nominated for her work within the community and her contribution to leadership, Superintendent Nelson went on to win both the state and national awards that year and says she now nominates officers for the award each year.

“More than anything, I want the same experience I had for my officers which is the leadership development. The process was rigorous, but I was fortunate enough to take part in numerous leadership workshops and made contacts I know I can turn to for guidance; that’s something to cherish for life”.

In 2017, then Inspector Nelson was humbled to receive a Chief Executive Women (CEW) scholarship to attend Harvard University in the United States of America. Offered to women excelling in their field, the scholarship was a once in a lifetime experience.

“I applied for [the scholarship] and I couldn’t believe it, but I won it – so for someone who left my degree and went to the academy, that’s pretty special,” Superintendent Nelson said.

Attending Harvard’s prestigious leadership development program gave Superintendent Nelson the added fire she has today to pursue her goals and ensure a safer community for the South Brisbane District, and the state.

Superintendent Nelson’s passion for her officers and her community is undeniable, and it’s contagious.

“I strongly believe that if you grow the leadership of just one person, you grow the strength of the QPS and that is a wonderful thing for Queenslanders,” Superintendent Nelson said.

“I’ve worked hard to get where I am and to be recognised for my leadership on its own merits and now I can use the voice I have built to institute real change both for our officers, and for our community.”

In 2018, Superintendent Nelson launched the Black Dog initiative; a forum for officers to learn about mental health and to give back to frontline officers who have the toughest of jobs.

“It’s about sharing the message that it’s ok not to be ok and equally, it’s ok to ask for help when you need it.”

Following the success of the Black Dog initiative, Superintendent Nelson brought her OICs from across South Brisbane together and asked what change they want to see, and the answer was resounding; resilience needs to be built.

“My next project – and I’ve already put together the project group – is looking at how we can build resilience in our officers, so they are better equipped to do their job day in day out and provide the highest level of service to our community.”

When asked about what it takes to be a successful leader, Superintendent Nelson said it was important to know that you do not have to have the answers all the time.

“What you need to have is a passion for continually improving yourself and focusing on your people and that comes from making time for them and being truly invested in their leadership too,” Superintendent Nelson said.

“You have to care for your staff, be supportive of their development and use your influence to be a champion for what they need every day.

“I’ve built a reputation for challenging the status quo – that’s something I never thought I would be able to do and I am so proud of that fact.”

QPS officers have shared their journey to help inspire young Queenslanders to take a close look at law when considering their potential careers.

Law Week is an annual, national event which aims to foster a better understanding of the roles law and justice play in our society.

‘Justice Journeys’ is a part of the campaign, offering an insight into some of the carreers and people employed in the field.


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