Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright presents Constable Varli Blake with the Victoria Police Star. Varli was back in uniform for the first time since the horrific explosion back in January last year. Photo supplied courtesy of the Herald Sun and photographer Mark Stewart.
IT’S a sight to bring tears to your eyes.
The picture of former Leongatha resident and Wonthaggi police constable, Varli Blake, looking so good as she stepped forward last Wednesday to receive the Victoria Police Star, an acknowledgement of serious injury sustained in the line of duty.
With her, also receiving the award, were Sergeant Tony Scully and Constable Emma Quick, who along with Varli have been uncomfortable about being photographed before then due to the extensive burns sustained in an operational incident in Melbourne last year.
Constable Blake’s injuries have been acknowledged as being the worst and her path to recovery the most problematic but last week’s event marked a significant step forward.
“It’s not an award that you strive for of course but it’s good to be recognised all the same,” said Varli this week.
“The support I’ve had from Victoria Police, from my family and friends and from the community as well has been absolutely overwhelming.
“But events like the ones they held locally down there really helped me get through.
“It was my first time back in uniform and it was a bit of a surreal feeling to be honest but good all the same.
“I’ve been wanting to get back to work but it makes me feel I want to get back sooner rather than later. It puts the fire back in your belly a bit more.”
Varli hopes to return to light duties this month or April at the latest.
“It was a good day, a big step forward really and makes you feel as if you’re closer to the end of the recovery.”
However, while Varli isn’t expecting any further major surgery, there’ll still be more day procedures along the way.
“I still got quite a bit of tightness but the work I had done on my neck has really freed that up.
“The team at the Alfred and my surgeon Heather Cleeland have been amazing. They’re the best nationally I think.
“It was nice to get the mask off for the day and now I’m back in the mask again, I’m not liking it. But it’s beneficial for the recovery, flattening it out and controlling the scarring until it settles down.
“I could be out of it as early as six months from now or still wearing it in two years’ time.
“Which is probably why I won’t be back on the streets,” says Varli with a smile.
“You don’t like being stared at but they stare at me with the mask on or off so I might as well be wearing it.
“I’ll be going back to light duties and they’re pretty keen to get me back at South Melbourne.”
Sharing the moment with Varli was her mum Cathy, and especially across from Kalgoorlie for the occasion, her sister Bianca and 17 month old son Cooper.
“Everyone has been amazing but Bianca nursed me through the first month and has come back over every time I’ve had major surgery.”
Varli also acknowledged the support she has received from the two colleagues caught up in the explosion with her.
“Emma and I talk nearly every day and particularly on those bad days, and thankfully there are fewer of those now, we helped get each other through.”
Cathy and Bianca were at the event but her father Tony, the extended family, and all her friends and colleagues are tremendously proud of her.
The six civilians who came to their aid will also receive Victoria Police Citizen Commendations in recognition of their exceptional performance and bravery.
The Victoria Police Star is awarded in recognition of the service and sacrifice made by Victoria Police employees who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.
On 4 January 2014, three police officers and two firefighters were injured after an explosion at a Middle Park residence. Their injuries were serious with all three police members suffering severe burns.
Southern Metro region Superintendent Peter Lardner, who spoke at the ceremony in the South Melbourne Town Hall, said the incident was a stark reminder of the risks police and other emergency services members take every day.
“Police officers place their lives on the line to make our community safer and today’s ceremony is an opportunity to stop and thank them for their service and sacrifice,” he said.
A range of other awards were presented on the day by Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright.