Constable Care has been teaching safety and crime prevention to generations of Western Australians for more than 29 years. With his broad smile and impressive chin, the friendly mascot has become an endearing icon for children and adults alike, bringing the police and the public together to collectively promote safer communities.
Behind the affable man in blue is David Gribble, a Curtin alumnus who is the Chief Executive Officer of Constable Care Child Safety Foundation (CCCSF). With more than 30 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector, Gribble has guided the foundation through its most innovative period to date, ensuring Constable Care and its programs remain relevant to the experiences and challenges of today’s generation of children.
Gone are the days of relying on a troop of puppets to teach kids about safety (although they are still employed in performances for kindergarten and early primary school students); the CCCSF has taken safety education to a whole new level.
“Constable Care Child Safety Foundation works with young people aged four to 17 years in primary and secondary schools across WA with the aim of empowering them to make better choices when faced with risky or potentially harmful situations,” Gribble explains.
“We do this through a range of interactive approaches, including theatre-in-education performances and workshops, online ‘choose your own ending’ films, and embedding trained facilitators in secondary schools over longer periods to work with young people on social issues they’re experiencing.”
CCCSF also offers a range of non-school programs, including lost child management services at Perth family events, support for children going into crisis care and a road safety experiential learning centre in Maylands.
The road safety centre is a site to behold. Featuring a realistic layout of Perth streets, it provides four to 11-year olds an opportunity to navigate road and transport hazards in a safe and realistic urban environment. It includes real road markings, stop signs, traffic lights, train crossings and even a bus stop and train station, complete with a full-size bus and train.
Gribble says the foundation’s new facilities and programs and are aligned to how young people learn and experience the world and were developed in response to mounting pressure for the foundation to evolve its services or ‘get left behind’.
“The organisation was in danger of being left behind by rapid changes in young people’s life experiences and expectations, by emerging technologies and an inability to demonstrate to our stakeholders the impact of our programs and interventions,” Gribble says.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy on innovating with new products and services that are youth-driven and responding to community need, as well as ensuring our methodology is best-practice.”
A good example of this innovation, says Gribble, is the foundation’s move from traditional theatre performances in schools to an evidence-based, interactive process called ‘forum theatre’.
“Forum theatre involves students devising and performing their own scenarios based on their own life experiences and issues, rather than having something presented to them.
“They come up with their own viable solutions to problems, rather than having us tell them what we think they are.”
Since 2012, the foundation has built evaluation processes into its school-based initiatives to measure students’ changes in knowledge, attitude and behaviour.
“Having surveyed thousands of students across our major focus areas, we’re confident we’re giving them a better understanding of issues, and that their views are changing as a result,” Gribble says.
“When we work in secondary schools using intensive programs over longer periods, we’re also seeing longer term changes in pro-social skills, as well as case study evidence from students, parents and teachers that young people are developing empathy and critical thinking skills, and that these are staying with them well beyond the conclusion of the program.”
Forging a career in changing young lives was not one originally envisioned by Gribble, who has a bachelor degree in information and library studies from Curtin. However, after working in multiple roles in the not-for-profit sector, including specialist positions with VisAbility, Alzheimer’s Australia WA, Advocare and Independent Living Centre WA, Gribble discovered he had a knack for bringing change to sectors that needed it most.
In 2003, he returned to Curtin to study an MBA part-time, to develop his leadership and management abilities.
“I realised I enjoyed implementing a vision and strategy, and if I wanted to move out of specialist roles within disability agencies, I needed to upskill myself to be employable across the broader not-for-profit sector,” Gribble says.
“As an alumnus, the Curtin MBA was a natural choice as it was, and is, a highly regarded program.
“It certainly worked as a strategy, as I made the leap from specialist services manager to general manager only a year after finishing the course while I was with Alzheimer’s Australia WA, and it was certainly a factor in being considered and selected for my current CEO role.”
Gribble is already looking ahead to the next evolutionary phase of CCCSF, and a number of projects are set for release this year, including augmented reality road safety lessons for students in regional and remote classrooms, and an after dark walking tour where members of the WA Police Force take groups of young people out into Perth city to learn about nighttime risks in entertainment precincts.
“My motto has always been, why have one innovation when you can have several on the go at once?”