Narelle Fraser is now a public speaker and has her own podcast.
Narelle Fraser grew up in Edithvale and was with Victoria Police for 27 years, 15 of those as a detective in the rape and homicide squads and missing persons unit. She’s worked on high-profile cases such as the Sharpe family murders in Mornington in 2004. Kate Sears speaks to Narelle about how her career was cut short when she was diagnosed with PTSD and retired in 2014 before reinventing herself as a public speaker, occasional guest on the Australian True Crime podcast and starting her own podcast, Narelle Fraser Interviews.
Narelle Fraser meets Mornington Peninsula Magazine manager Molly Mitchell and graphic designer Jasmine Forecast.
In such a challenging role, how did you ‘fill your cup’, so to speak?
It was a slow burn. I’ve always felt my forte was in supporting victims and those who were traumatised by something they’d witnessed or been a victim of. I wanted to comfort them, listen to them and make them feel like they’d been heard and understood. I began to think I was bulletproof and could handle anything, but slowly I started to feel weighed down by all that grief, trauma and sadness to the point where it consumed my every waking moment. I found it hard to accept that what I thought was my strength was affecting me so much I couldn’t do my job properly. Looking back, the signs of stress were there but I ignored them, hoping they’d magically disappear. But instead of going away, they increased to the point where I knew there was something not quite right, and I saw a doctor who diagnosed PTSD. I was unaware of how mentally unwell I was, and it was only through professional help that I managed to come out the other side and discover another world out there other than policing. Where one door closes, another opens.
How have you been since retiring from Victoria Police?
I miss policing a lot but I don’t miss the stress, feeling tired all the time and/or the shiftwork. When I was first diagnosed with PTSD and was off work, I missed it every single day, and whenever I saw a police car it would make me feel so sad at what I was missing. But as time went on I was able to change my mindset and think about what I didn’t miss rather than what I did miss. I still think it’s the best job in the world. When I accepted that I couldn’t return to policing, I took a few gambles trying new things. I unexpectedly became an ‘accidental’ mental health advocate, which has led to a whole new career path. Life is still exciting, even without the sirens.
How did you get into public speaking and presenting?
A vocational guidance counsellor gave me a few ideas. I did some lecturing at NMIT in investigative techniques and that lit my public speaking fuse. I was like a sponge, learning the tips and tricks of public speaking, and started speaking at Probus and Rotary where I gained some confidence and fine-tuned what I learned people wanted to hear.
You’ve stared death and trauma in the face throughout your career and spoken quite openly about your PTSD. Do you have any advice for those in a similar position?
Yes: don’t think you are bulletproof and can handle anything – do as I say, not as I did. If you notice some signs that indicate you aren’t travelling too well, aren’t sleeping, worrying a lot, feeling anxious and stressed, do not ignore it. Talk to someone, but also consider talking with a professional. I lost a career because I put my head in the sand and ignored the signs.
What are you most looking forward to as you approach your May tours?
Getting back to doing live shows, the excitement and involvement with a live audience where I can motivate, share and inspire others with my story.
Your podcast has been so well received. Did you ever imagine it would reach such heights?
Never in my wildest dreams did I think this is where I’d be and what I’d be doing post-policing, but I feel humbled and honoured to be sharing stories of ordinary people who have been thrust into the world of extraordinary. I had an idea which required me to go outside my comfort zone and take a risk, and see where it went? OMG!
Do you have anything to add?
I just wish my mum, who passed away a few years ago, could see me now. Maybe she can.
Narelle Fraser, with her mother, graduates as a police officer.