The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST Andrew Scipione

Episode 16

Andrew Scipione: Episode Summary

On this episode of ‘The Inspiration Project’, Brendan Corr talks to Andrew Scipione about growing up in southwestern Sydney, the importance of choices and following Jesus as Police Commissioner.

Among other things Andrew shares:

  • The adventures of his childhood.
  • Becoming the man of the house after the death of his father.
  • The profound impact of three men on his life.
  • How a 14 year old girl who knocked on Andrew’s door later became his wife.
  • That pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.
  • His focus on being an ambassador for Jesus, not an embarrassment.
  • How police officers are both part of a community while also serving the community.
  • That he was a Christian who just happened to be the NSW Police Commissioner.

Andrew Scipione: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student wellbeing, character development and academic improvement.

Introduction
Welcome to The Inspiration Project, where well-known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Well, hi there everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project podcast. We hope that you’re enjoying the series of conversations that we’ve been bringing to you with notable Christian thinkers and leaders in our society and our community. This morning we’re delighted to welcome Mr. Andrew Scipione to conversation with us. Mr Scipione started his professional career in the Australian Customs Service and in 1980, joined the New South Wales police force. With a little tenure at the National Crime Authority in between, he came back to New South Wales and was appointed deputy commissioner in 2000 and commissioner of police of New South Wales in 2007, a position that he served very faithfully to the people of New South Wales until his retirement in 2017. And been since then with many other parts of life. And I understand, Mr. Scipione, you were the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Letters from Macquarie University a little earlier. Congratulations on that achievement.

Andrew Scipione
Good morning, Brendan. Yes, thank you for that. Look, I sometimes wonder… Bearing in mind that I’m an old boy from Macquarie Uni, I did my master’s of business there. I wonder how I actually got to where I have got to, and I very quickly come back to how I actually got there. It’s because of what God’s done in my life, not me. So yes, it was a very pleasant surprise. Thank you.

Brendan Corr
Well, I look forward to hearing a little bit about how God worked His way into your life, and through your life, to the things that you did. But let me take you back. You have an illustrious career that’s been high profile in our community. You mentioned, looking back now, that you found it difficult to anticipate that this is where you’d be. When you were a little tacker, what were the things that were your hopes and dreams?

Andrew Scipione
Gee. As a little fellow, I grew up in southwestern Sydney. I wasn’t born here, I came here as a very young boy. I came with my parents from England. I was born in London, and we travelled here on what was then known as Ten Pound Poms. They were migrants that were assisted, they paid £10 and they left England, and came to Australia for a brand new start. So my aspirations weren’t that high. I was just so incredibly grateful and so richly blessed that my parents decided to make a change, and to come to this nation. Look, I left school as a young man, a young boy really, and probably thought that if I attained the credentials of a tradesman, I would have been pretty happy.

Brendan Corr
You mentioned your family background, and your arrival under that supported immigration programme. Were you, as a young person, conscious of a new start for you? Or was it too big a change for you to be aware at the time?

Andrew Scipione
No, I wasn’t. I came here with mum and dad and my sister. My sister is 10 years older than me, so Francis was 11, and I was 1.

Brendan Corr
Right.

Andrew Scipione
So I had no real appreciation of anything, other than as I started to grow up, I became acquainted with my family history. And I realised that I still had grandparents… My mother was born in northern Ireland, I still had relatives in Ireland. So it was only through the family discussions and letters from what they were calling home, that I became acquainted with it. But as I got older, and the older I get, the more I realised just how blessed I am to be here. So I guess it’s something that you don’t really fully understand until you grow a little older and a little wiser. But particularly of recent times, I reflect on it and think just how fortunate I have been.

Brendan Corr
So a young fellow in southwest Sydney, the son of some new arrivals, you’re British immigrants. Was life a rich, fulfilling experience? Were there hardships that you were faced when you were a young fellow?

Andrew Scipione
Look, as a boy growing up, I lived the life of… We grew up in Padstow, which was an area that really was market garden and timber yards effectively. And we had a creek across the road, we had all sorts of things to keep us busy in the bush, lots of good friends in the street. So my life was nothing but good. I know that, as a boy growing up, I probably lacked a lot of understanding around things that were really important. In fact, it wasn’t until we had a young couple move into the house next door where I was living, which was our family home, that I even realised that there was a thing called church. I’d never been to church, and my parents weren’t church folk. And there was a young couple that moved in, that just happened to be youth leaders in a local Baptist church, that encouraged me to go to their church. Just to go to what was then known as Boys’ Brigade.

Brendan Corr
Yes, right.

Andrew Scipione
So it was on that basis that I had my first interest. Look, life was very good for me. We really didn’t want for anything, and yet we had very little.

Brendan Corr
Yes. It sounds very ideal, what you described, that environment, the capacity to get out and have some adventures, but to do that safely. And to know your neighbours, to be a community that actually knew your neighbours.

Andrew Scipione
Yes. Absolutely.

Brendan Corr
We’ll come back to some of that in our conversation down the track, Mr. Scipione. But invitation to Boys’ Brigade, that would have happened for a lot of kids. A lot of young people would have gone to a youth programme at a church, and for it to have been a passing experience, a season. It became something much more for you. How did that happen? How did it become something more central to your life?

Andrew Scipione
Well, look, interestingly enough, even as a young boy I would always ask the big questions in my own mind. And I guess I progressed as a kid growing into a young adult. And going from Boys’ Brigade into the youth group was a really important time in my life. As I said, the neighbours were youth leaders, as well as Boys’ Brigade leaders. My transition through was accelerated when I realised that there was a very, very important people. They’re called girls. And as a young teenage boy, I got to meet girls, which was for me, very, very interesting. In that I’d never really met girls before. I was always interested in football and cricket, and catching tadpoles. So as a young teenager, probably just before that, I think 12 or 13, it would have been, I went into the youth group. And mixing in those circles, spending time with these folks that were quite strange, to be honest, in that they had a faith, they believed in things. They cared about each other, they were a little different than my friends. And I soon came to the conclusion that this was probably a very good thing, and I then started asking myself the big question, “Well, why I wouldn’t I want that for my life? And what was it that they had that I didn’t?” So it was on that basis that I came to a point, as a young 14 year old boy, where I wanted to make that decision for Jesus, and I did that. In fact, I did that in the house next door to the house where I was living, on a Bible study night, and I can even remember the chair that I was sitting on when I made that decision…

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Andrew Scipione
…and gave my heart to Jesus. And I reflect on that, and I talk to that quite a bit. And I jump forward 30 or 40 years, and realise that over my time in the police force, I’ve made some very important decisions, on behalf of millions of people. But there was no more important decision than I had ever made in my life, or that I will ever make, until I breathe the air of Heaven that I made that night, in that lounge room, in that chair to give my heart to Jesus.

Brendan Corr
That’s wonderful.

Andrew Scipione
And that’s how I got there.

Brendan Corr
That is wonderful. It’s so encouraging to hear that after decades, that you can still see the importance of that moment, and how a moment can change the course of your eternity, not just your life.

Andrew Scipione
Absolutely. You choose your destiny when you make those sorts of decisions.

Brendan Corr
Obviously, it is part of the Christian story. Were you conscious that it was going to change your future, as you made the decision as a 14 year old?

Andrew Scipione
Yes, not quite to the extent that it did. Because often, the calm before the storm is one thing. But when you’re going through crisis, the decisions that you’d made are often challenged and tested. Well, I say that because as a 14 year old boy, I gave my heart to Jesus, went home and told my parents, and they were very supportive. They didn’t have a faith, but they were very supportive. Little did I know that within a few short months, I would be going from being still a young boy that really had no fears, concerns at all, to being the man of the house because my father died suddenly of a heart attack at home one morning.

Brendan Corr
Goodness.

Andrew Scipione
And at 14 I, as I said, went from being a boy to the man in the house with my mother who was a very lonely lady when dad went, because her entire family was living on the other side of the world. We didn’t have Skype, we didn’t have Zoom, we didn’t have mobile phones. In fact, we didn’t have contact with them, other than by mail. Snail mail, in fact it was. So it was a long time between conversations. Having said that, I didn’t realise until then just how important this faith would be. I think when people are faced with a crisis, they can go two ways, or one of two ways. They can either reject and blame, or they can accept and if you like, move closer towards a loving God. And I chose to move towards, for I had nothing else. There was nowhere else for me to go in that regard. And it was interesting. Three or four years later, my mother gave her heart to Jesus in the same church that I was attending.

Brendan Corr
Really?

Andrew Scipione
And I can reflect now, and I’m reminded of a conversation that I did have with her, and said, “Mum, so what was it that brought you to the point where you decided that this was the way for you?” She said, “I just watched you.”

Brendan Corr
Really?

Andrew Scipione
“I watched your life.”

Brendan Corr
Great…

Andrew Scipione
Now, I’m not saying that I got it all right, I can assure you I didn’t. Every teenage boy growing up in the southwest, in Sydney in the ’70s is going to make mistakes. And I made truckloads of them. Having said that, she just didn’t see my behaviour, she saw my heart. And that was what brought her to the point where she effectively made that decision. And it brought me to an understanding of, one of the reasons why I did give my heart to Jesus is because I was watching these peoples that were calling themselves Christians. Kids. They weren’t getting it right necessarily all the time either. But you know what? They were living a life that was different to me. So I watched them, and I wanted to be sure that they were the real deal, and not frauds. And I came to that conclusion. Well, I guess my mum came to the same conclusion, she just wanted to see whether I was real and genuine about this. Because it could have easily been a fad, but it wasn’t. And she came to that conclusion. And she’s gone home to meet her Lord, and she did that in the full understanding, and lived a great life in Jesus. And subsequently married a man who didn’t know the Lord, but shortly after they were married, he went through a Christianity Explained course with a good mate of mine, and he gave his heart to Jesus. And they had a wonderful 30 years together, which was just so good to see. What a blessing.

Brendan Corr
Yes, that’s wonderful. That is. So Mr. Scipione, you’re talking about faith as being not just a set of constructs, a set of things that you hold to and believe and profess, but something that actually changes who you are in some ways?

Andrew Scipione
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Brendan Corr
That growth in your new person, your new character, in that face of that hardship, that early loss of your dad, where did you find the strength to be that new person, that new young man that was given that new life on that night in Bible study?

Andrew Scipione
Very good question. Look, I realise now that much of what you go through in life comes about as a result of the choices that you make. Good choices will give you a good life. Not so good choices will give you a life that leaves a lot to be desired. And that’s not necessarily meaning you’ll be rich and famous, as opposed to poor and unknown and homeless. It’s not like that, I’m not talking about… I’m talking about fulfilment in life, things that money can’t buy, that status won’t bestow. Those things that really, really matter. Much of what we do in determining whether the choice is a good one or a bad one is to learn behaviour. We watch somebody else do it. If you’re fearful… If you see a group that’s fearful, often you will gather and you will actually catch their fear. It’s infectious. We see this at the moment with what we’re seeing around us right now, the fear about a drought that will never break, or bush fires that will consume us all, or smoke in the air that will kill us, or Corona viruses that will wipe out the planet. The only thing more contagious than COVID-19 is the fear of COVID-19. And so I realised, again very young, that whilst fear was contagious, so was courage. You’ve got to see it modelled, and if you see it modelled and people live it, you can catch it. It’s contagious. Well, I didn’t have a father, and every young man needs a dad. Really, to give him the clues in life, to give him an understanding of what is important, and how you should make good decisions, and what they might look like. And I was really, really blessed. In that church and in a church that I subsequently started attending… I’ve only attended three churches in my entire Christian life. But there were three men that came into my life, that God put there, that took me through some of the really dangerous times in the life of a young teenager. Those three men taught me, first of all, how to go from being a boy to a man. Then they taught me how to go from being a single man to a married man. And then ultimately, from being a married man to a father. They taught me valuable lessons. And I just had to decide whether, in fact, I was going to catch the lesson. And so, as a young boy growing up, I had so much to give thanks to the Father for, for these men.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

Andrew Scipione
Two of them are home with the Lord, one’s still alive.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

Andrew Scipione
One is still alive and we talk regularly. A good, good friend. A faithful friend. And the blessings just didn’t stop there. There was a young girl that I met in that youth group who particularly was the one when my father did die, she took a trip across the river from Peakhurst with her father. She was 14, and came and knocked on my front door. I didn’t know she was coming, and I really hadn’t spoken to her before. And she knocked on my door and stood there, as I opened the door. And she said, “I’m really sorry to hear about your dad,” burst out in tears, and then pretty well turned around, got in the car and went home. Little did I know that about three or four years later, I would be engaged.

Brendan Corr
Really?

Andrew Scipione
And three years after that, we’d be married. And today, we have three adult children and I’ve been blessed with a wonderful life with a very faithful woman who’s taken on my name, and been such an important part of my life and my spiritual growth. God’s good.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

Andrew Scipione
Not only in terms of those He brings alongside us, but those He brings to us.

Brendan Corr
A stirring in her heart, that the experience that you were having… The way in which her compassion was…

Andrew Scipione
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Brendan Corr
…evidently part of her own, but part of God’s plan, or God’s compassion also in the circumstance.

Andrew Scipione
Yes. And that notion of love is a doing word, it’s a verb, it’s so true. And that’s what she was there for. 42 years later, here we still are.

Brendan Corr
Yes, that’s awesome. Mr. Scipione, you talked about the impact of that dramatic change in life: your conversion, the loss of your dad. What did that mean in terms of a practical sense? What did it mean for your prospects? You’re a young guy at school, what…

Andrew Scipione
Yes. Well, it wasn’t good.

Brendan Corr
Did it change your expectations of what was possible?

Andrew Scipione
Absolutely. Absolutely. But as a determined young kid, I decided that whilst it did change the circumstance, the outcome shouldn’t be any different. At 14, I determined then that I was going to continue on at school. And shortly thereafter, came to the realisation that my mum couldn’t afford to pay off the house and feed us. And then I veto all of the bills. So she actually had to go from being a day worker to a night worker, so that she could get more money. I realised I would have to leave high school. So I finished, after my school certificate, I went out as a 15 year old… I was 15 and almost 16 when I took on an apprenticeship as an electrician. And I mean, I was so young, I wasn’t allowed to work on the equipment, in fact to use the tools until I turned 16. And I had to wait a couple of months. So I was a young fellow, but at least I was bringing in money, and I was able to assist a little and pay my own way, which allowed us to stay in the house and to basically survive. So it did change my outlook but again, determined as I was, I was fortunate again. God blessed me with a job, I got a job. And even then, in the midst of that, we still weren’t through the woods. I worked for a company that was caught up in a very big building industry collapse in the ’70s. It was a company called Mainline, it went under. And I worked for an electrical contracting company called Oddson & Lee, and they went bankrupt. They didn’t have to find me a job, even though I was an indentured apprentice. So I was only a couple of years into my trade when it became apparent that whilst I would have liked to have waited it out and got myself another apprenticeship, I couldn’t afford to. So I ended up having to go and take another job. And I joined the public service, the Australian public service for a couple of years. So yes, that was, I guess, the beginning of the change in terms of where I was meant to be, and how I was going to be used in life. So the death of my father did have a significant impact…

Brendan Corr
It set the course.

Andrew Scipione
…but one would say that it was for good.

Brendan Corr
Yes. Well, you can see that now but at the time, I guess it must have been a little bit confusing and maybe even a little disappointing to have your options limited.

Andrew Scipione
Yes. Look, in this life, I am certain that pain is inevitable. Pain is something that will touch every one of else. If not physical, mental. If not mental, in terms of situation. So situational pain in my circumstances was inevitable. But misery was optional.

Brendan Corr
That’s good.

Andrew Scipione
I chose not to take that option because you know what? I had far more going for me than I had against me. And why would I let that hold me down? It wasn’t what happened to me that would be the determiner in terms of my life, it was what I was doing in response to that, that would crown whatever it was that I did.

Brendan Corr
That’s so good. So from the public service, found your way to the police force. Was that a clear choice for you or…?

Andrew Scipione
Yes. No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t. It’s very interesting. I ended up going from the public service into customs, so I worked as a law enforcement officer with customs. And that was at the airport, on the waterfront in Sydney, and in an intelligence gathering role. And then I worked with, on a joint operation, a number of New South Wales police that were involved in drug investigations. It was a joint operation. And as a result of that, coming into contact with them, they encouraged me, they said, “Well, why wouldn’t you join the police force?” So I thought, “Well, why wouldn’t I?” And we had a police officer in our church at the time, a senior officer who said, “Look, I’d like to see you go down and talk to our recruiting people.” I did that. Long story short, I joined the New South Wales police force in 1980, and as a probationary constable and had served 37 years at the time of my retirement.

Brendan Corr
That’s a wonderful career. We’ll come back to some of the end points and the leadership that you were widely known for in those crisises that you made mention of the importance of crisis situations, how you respond. And characteristic of your leadership, I think, was the calm, measured, controlled way in which you led through a series of those. But let me get you back to the nature of policing. You had this career 37 years, of serving the people of New South Wales, and it’s a place, a job that brings you very sharply into contact with some of the worst aspects of human nature and human behaviour. How did you preserve your sense of compass, direction in the midst of a career that was filled with the encounters of some of the dark things of the world?

Andrew Scipione
Well, look, as I’ve already said, it’s not necessarily those things that happen to you that determines where you end up, it’s what you do in response. And many of the things that I saw, from terrible scenes to sitting alongside people as they were dying, knowing that they were dying and trying to bring them hope, and yet not being in a position to do much other than to hold their hand… Through seeing behaviours within an organisation that was meant to be upholding the law when, in fact, you’d know some of those, the minority that were involved were significantly breaking the law. Going into situations with stress, builds on stress, and it’s a bit like mercury in a fish. It adds, and adds, and adds, and you get to the point where something has to give. And for many, PTSD is an all-consuming condition that robs people of happiness and joy and peace in whatever they’re doing. When you pile all of those things on top of each other, you realise we expect our police to do a lot. And it’s interesting, there are so many of your colleagues that go through the same training, the same preparation, they work in the same locations, doing the same things, some thrive and others don’t. Others simply crash and burn. Much of that sort of pressure, again, brings you back to it. I’ve always said to my boys, to my daughter, to anyone that would listen, “Good choices. It comes down to making good choices.” If you make good choices around these things and particularly when corruption is rife… And we’ve had an organisational situation leading up to the mid-90s when we had to go through a significant role commission, if you like. A complete organisational reset. And I was working as a detective in a station known as Bankstown, which was right near the centre of hard places in the state of New South Wales. And it was in New South Wales, it is the hardest gig in Australia because just simply by the nature of Sydney and New South Wales being at the forefront in these areas. So I made a decision then that before I would think of myself as a police officer, I’d think of myself as a Christian. Again, considerable thought to what it was that I did, who I did it for, how I was going to do it, and what the eternal ramifications of my behaviour would be. Not only in terms of my day-to-day engagements, but my standing within Christian circles, and what it would do. In the eyes of many I worked with and worked for, that is the community, I stood for what was then known as the church. People would look at my behaviour and say, “That’s the way church and Christian people behave.” And I never wanted to be the one that would be reason my family would say, “Well, if that’s what church stands for, if that’s what Jesus is all about, I don’t want Him.” I always thought, “No. I need to be an ambassador, not an embarrassment.”

Brendan Corr
Yes, that’s good.

Andrew Scipione
And so I had to make that decision, and that decision, that choice, I would… Before I was a cop, I was a Christian, was always going to rule the roost. Now that came at a personal price. I was known in some stations, known in particular as this guy because I wouldn’t get involved in things that others would. And they obviously were very concerned that… They’d be talking about to people about behaviours that were unacceptable, clearly unacceptable. And they were right. Having said that, God was there, and He honoured that. And my career was one that I didn’t suffer like others, I didn’t have the problems in terms of my thought processes, and I was never in the position I would think twice about doing things that were corrupt. Not because it wasn’t the right thing to do, but because I would be letting down my Heavenly Father, and then my family. So I was, again, protected, blessed, fortunate that God shows or exercised His grace around every engagement that I had.

Brendan Corr
Mr. Scipione, the notion of community, of society needing a police force, needing law enforcement, is that a regrettable circumstance? That we need an organisation such as the police to hold us to account, or to keep order?

Andrew Scipione
I don’t necessarily think that police forces hold people to account, they simply exercise, if you like, the authority of community in general to do the right thing. The interesting thing is, in terms of community, communities look to their police particularly for leadership. Your engagement with police generally comes about when you’re either a victim, or you’re an offender. The two organisations like mine at the time focused on the offender, and saw the offender as our customer. Well I said no that can’t be the case, that can’t be the case. 80% of the crime that’s committed in New South Wales, and probably across Australia, is committed by 20% of our community. And if we focus on just those 20%, that means 8 out of 10 people aren’t getting what we need to give, and that is strong leadership, support, encouragement and protection.

Brendan Corr
That’s good, yes.

Andrew Scipione
So we had to turn the culture around, to start thinking about the 8 out of 10 that we never deal with. And so it changed my thinking. It changed it to the point where it wasn’t a reflection of how bad things were, but we were here. And the notion of it’s an indictment that we need police. So turning it around to saying, “Well, we’re a group of men and women that came from communities that are peddled with things that were important to all of us, even if we never had one engagement with police in our entire lives.” This group of people was their champion, the rights and the behaviours and the protections of the things that we hold important as Australians. They could speak up, and speak out for people that didn’t have a voice when it came to what we want Australia to look like, what we want your street to look like in terms of behaviours. And so I saw us as strong leaders that were very capable, well-prepared and trained, and able to speak up for and stand up for those that didn’t necessarily have a voice or couldn’t stand up for themselves. So I saw the organisation and the profession as doing something more than just dare to deal with the bad people because 8 out of every 10 engagements we had, and those that needed us were people we never had a problem. But they still needed us, they needed that leadership. And you see it today, you see the New South Wales police force particularly at the moment… And where the commissioner stands up and starts talking on behalf of a society, it needs people to say, “Right. We’re going to take control. Let’s deal with this, and deal with this properly. It’s not about catching people out, it’s about making sure that life as we know it, that we value, goes on.

Brendan Corr
Yes, that’s good.

Andrew Scipione
And it goes on not just today, but tomorrow, for your kids and for their kids in days to come.

Brendan Corr
I hear in that description of yours, the thoughts that came to my mind when you were describing your early childhood, that sense of community, that sense of stability and safety in the relationships of society. And it’s come back in this view that you brought to the enterprise of policing, that it is about leading the community in the way in which it can function for the good of all.

Andrew Scipione
Absolutely. That’s the only reason we do… So I used to say to every officer that I would come into contact with when I started to have some of those discussions, “We’re only here for one reason, and that’s to support the community that we’re a part of. So if everything you’re doing, it doesn’t steer back into that support, that care, that engagement, that protection, that leadership of that community, then stop doing it. You’re wasting your time, because that’s the only reason we’re here.”

Brendan Corr
Yes, that’s very good. One last question, Mr. Scipione, if you don’t mind. The notion of being involved in the police law enforcement raises the question, or at least it could raise the question, about the technicalities of the law, and what is legal versus what is moral, what is possible versus what is right. Where do you see the line between or the balance between those concepts, in the way that our society decides how we’re going to live together?

Andrew Scipione
Look, we’re really fortunate. We live in a modern democracy. There’s no dictatorship, we don’t live and work for the state. We are individual, but we don’t forget the importance… We’re not just trees, we’re part of a forest. And so with that in mind, the laws of this country, and the laws particularly that apply in this state, I’ve got to say, by Bible standards, are very, very fair and very, very balanced. So a law enforcement officer, a police man or woman, is there to discharge their duties without fear or favour, without any malice or any ill will, for as long as they charged with being a police officer. That’s a sworn duty that an officer has. And for those that are Christian, they swear their oath in front of God. For me, that was it. Now, if there were things that I would have been or should have or could have been asked to do that was not legal, then clearly I had the right or the authority as an officer to say, “No, I’m not doing it.” And that exists to this day. That’s the independent oath of office that every officer in New South Wales swears. So, for me, it was never a problem in terms of enforcing the laws, under the criminal code, that police officers are called to enforce. As I said, that’s the beauty of living in a modern democratic society where there is good rules. The rule of law is supreme, it’s about being fair and reasonable and just in every situation, and that’s a good thing. The moral code that exists was not something that police officers were called upon to enforce. The moral code that exists is something that we exercise in our own minds. And so for me, I’ve seen people that did that really, really well, and I saw people that didn’t do that so well. I saw many colleagues that made mistakes in a number of the areas that come down to moral choices and decisions. And there’s a very old saying that says, “We should learn from mistakes, preferably someone else’s.”

Brendan Corr
Yes. Yes.

Andrew Scipione
And I learned from seeing how badly things can go wrong when we get the moral side of it wrong, because it’s probably as important, if not more important, than the criminal law. But that’s an individual choice. So for me, there was never a conflict. As I said, as I got to a point where for the last 10 years that I was the commissioner of the New South Wales police force, which was a very big organisation… New South Wales was 20,000 people. It had responsibility for over eight million people. The size of the state was 800,000 square kilometres.

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Andrew Scipione
The last budget that I administered was over $3.2 billion.

Brendan Corr
Big numbers.

Andrew Scipione
We’re talking about a big organisation with lots of moving parts. And I was simply there as a steward, I had to look after not only those 20,000 people, I had to look after you, and the eight and a half million people that made up the state of New South Wales. With wider responsibilities across Australia and the globe. And so my job was not an easy one. If I wanted an easier job, I probably would have gone down and started working on the side of the road selling carnations out of the back of a truck. That was never going to be. So in my role, I had to come to that point where I started to reconcile all of the things you talked about. Things like decisions that had to be made, how do we enforce the law? How do I reconcile my moral choices with my legal obligations? And in all of those things, I found it much, much easier to realise that my being in that position was never about me.

Brendan Corr
Yes.

Andrew Scipione
I didn’t go to work thinking, “Who’s going to serve me today?” My every day was about coming to work and saying, “What am I going to do to serve this community and this police force today?”

Brendan Corr
Yes. Yes.

Andrew Scipione
It was never about me. You never forget where you come from, and you have to realise that this isn’t about me. It’s not about privilege. And then the other thing I had to determine and stick to was realising, before I was a commissioner, I was a Christian. I was a Christian who just happened to be a commissioner, not a commissioner who happened to be a Christian. And so I had to get that pecking order right, in terms of my mind. It was the thing that aligned the compass every day.

Brendan Corr
Yes, that’s good.

Andrew Scipione
So I had the right direction to go in. So it was a matter of hitting the reset button, going to the compass, seeing the direction, and then sailing the course, and God looked after the rest. Far too complex for me or a single man or woman to do, I had to leave it all to Him. And He was faultless in His execution, gracious in His application, and kind in every way in terms of what I had to go through, the good and the bad.

Brendan Corr
The situation you describe of leading that organisation, that incredibly important and complex organisation, serving the state of New South Wales… And for you to break it down to the simplicity of, “I’ve just got to be faithful to what God asked me to do today, be faithful to the things that He’s set my hand to today, and He’ll look after the rest…” With your faith guiding your steps, but also I get a sense that it was a refuge for you to be nurtured in your innermost being, in the face of criticism, in the face of crisis, it’s a beautiful story, Mr. Scipione.

Andrew Scipione
Well, yes. Look, I soon realised that I had an audience of one in terms of every decision I made. I just had to make sure that I realised it.

Brendan Corr
Yes, wonderful. It’s a really interesting account of how you started from simple beginnings, to become one of the leaders of our community in a very significant way, and for an extended period of time. To hear how God was in that, and how you can see, despite the challenges, the working of His goodness and grace, I’m so thankful for you sharing your story with us, Mr. Scipione. Thank you.

Andrew Scipione
Well, Brendan, it’s been good.

Brendan Corr
God bless you, and continue to pour His grace into your life.

Andrew Scipione
Thank you.

About Andrew Scipione

Andrew Scipione is a former police officer who served for 10 years as Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force. He was born in London and his family immigrated to Australia when he was an infant. Upon leaving school after his father’s death, Andrew commenced work as an electrician's apprentice to help with household expenses. He shifted to policing in 1980 and worked his way up through the ranks. Andrew holds a master's degree in management and is known for his leadership skills. For his service to policing, Andrew received the Australian Police Medal in 2003 and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2016.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).