WHEN police in Sale were introduced to a member of their local Rotary Club over a decade ago, little did they know it would mark the beginning of a regular dinner date that would continue to bring police and people from the community together for years to come.

Today, the weekly event is known as Monday Tucker, an opportunity for people from all walks of life to have a meal and a chat in the Sale community, including local police.

Established in 2010 by Detective Senior Sergeant, Andrew Mehlert and Sale Rotary Club member Michael Page, Monday Tucker started out with the primary goal of serving meals to those vulnerable.

For many years, volunteers, Rotary members and local police would meet in the Sale Memorial Hall every Monday evening to cook and serve meals to those who needed them, with a number of locals attending on a regular basis.

But, community attendance and police involvement dropped off over time, and the event was called off altogether when COVID hit Victoria in 2020.

That was until East Gippsland’s Local Area Commander Inspector, Mark Rossiter met Mr Page himself.

East Gippsland Local Area Commander Inspector, Mark Rossiter (middle) with Monday Tucker volunteers, Tracey Hughes and Noel Thomas.

“When I bumped into Michael by chance at a Royal Australian Airforce Centenary function in September 2021, he told me all about the program and the great things it had achieved,” Insp Rossiter said.

“He wanted some help getting it up and running again, and so it was from there that I developed a bit of a vision for what I thought the program could look like.

“I walked away and I thought, ‘we can do this’, but let’s put a bit more emphasis on engaging with community members this time around, to identify what issues they’re facing and how we can better support them.”

So, after a two year-hiatus, Monday Tucker version 2.0 was in the making.

After receiving divisional support for up to two members to participate in the event each week, Insp Rossiter teamed up with Rotary to establish a plan for the program’s revival.

“I thought, ‘we’ve got to engage some additional stakeholders to help us get set up and maximise the utility of the event for members of the community’,” Insp Rossiter said.

“So we established a committee and came up with a bit of a campaign to get some local welfare organisations like Uniting Care and the Salvation Army on board.”

With Foodbank also on board, Australia’s largest hunger relief charity, it didn’t take long to recommission the Monday Tucker kitchen either – leading to the eventual re-launch of the program in July 2022.

Patrons enjoying Monday Tucker in Sale.

Today, no longer involved in serving meals, police members have even more time to speak with those in the Sale community about their needs and concerns, strengthening their confidence in police and other support services.

“Every Monday night, two of our members work their way around the hall and have a chat to the 30 or so attendees about a variety of matters including local crime, family violence, road policing issues,” Insp Rossiter said.

“Sometimes, serious crime is reported, but because members of the community feel comfortable speaking with police, our members have the information they need to initiate investigations as soon as the night’s over.”

Through attending the event on a regular basis, Sale police members have been able to address reported incidents of family violence with early intervention, gather information about local drug trafficking, and more.

On one occasion, police at Monday Tucker were even able to determine that a vulnerable group of people were the targets of significant fraud. But thanks to their close connection with the Sale community, police were able to gather and link enough intelligence to identify the offenders and hold them to account.

“Our attendance has resulted in some great outcomes,” Insp Rossiter said.

“The police members who attend find it really rewarding on a personal level too. They establish relationships with members of the community and get to know who they’re dealing with really well, so they end up with a great understanding of how to help them.”

Sale police members also get valuable insight into attendees’ footy tipping strategy.

Social activities like footy tipping are another much-loved part of Monday Tucker and are incorporated into the program to encourage people who can sometimes be isolated, like the elderly or those with disability, to come along to the event too.

Given the huge success of the program so far, it’s safe to say the new and improved Monday Tucker won’t be fizzling out anytime soon.

But, as the saying goes, many hands make light work, so Insp Rossiter is more than happy to welcome new volunteers to the program team.

“Our police volunteers enable us to have a consistent community presence,” Insp Rossiter said.

“Whether we’re speaking to attendees about what’s going on in their world, or about the footy, it’s our presence that matters most, because it provides members of the community with the reassurance that we’re always here to help.”

The Sale Veterans Centre/Memorial Hall is under renovation and ‘Monday Tucker’ is currently being conducted at the Gregg Hall which is situated behind the Uniting Kindergarten on the corner of Raymond and McAllister Street, Sale.