Bill Wilson, the senior adviser in Support and Equity for Charles Darwin University, retires this week after a career in the army, the police force and academia.
The 65-yeal-old former assistant police commissioner will pack up his office in Building 22 and head off on holidays overseas with his wife Patricia before deciding where he will live in retirement.
Bill retired as assistant police commissioner in 1996 at the age of 55 and embarked on an academic career – rejecting those old-fashioned notions that retirees should look forward only to golf and bowls.
He had previously enrolled in an arts degree at CDU in 1988, completing his honours before deciding to continue on to his PhD, whose thesis was the history of the police force in the Northern Territory.
With his academic qualifications completed after police retirement, he became a lecturer in history and politics at the university for about five years before moving into Support and Equity, where he looks after the rights of students and advises them on issues such as grievances and other complaints.
It’s a delicate job which he says combines the skills he has learnt in his two careers – as a police investigator and as an academic with a knowledge of history and legal procedures.
Born and raised in Middlesborough in Yorkshire, Bill Wilson came to Australia at the age of 27 after a career in the British army. During his army career he spent time in Libya in anti-tank training, where he met second lieutenant Muammar Gaddafi, later to become head of state of his country.
On his arrival in Australia, Bill spent a year in Sydney, finding jobs as varied as insurance salesman and storeman.
Then his eye chanced on an advertisement for police officers in the Northern Territory, and his career in the police service was soon under way.
Over the years he rose through the ranks from constable on the beat to sergeant to inspector and chief inspector and finally assistant-commissioner.
His first day on the job he met his future wife Patricia, a young policewoman who started her own career on the same day. But police in those days were prevented from marrying fellow officers, and Patricia had to give up her job when she married Bill.
Among Bill’s police career highlights was the arrest of drug runner Donald Tait, who had hired an aircraft to fly drugs into the Northern Territory. An RAAF Hercules shadowed the Tait aircraft, and when it was forced to land at Katherine where he was stationed Bill and his colleagues were on hand to arrest him.
Bill’s home at the police training college (now the Mirambeena Lodge in Cavenagh Street) was blown away during Cyclone Tracy, and he recalls how the training school was sent south to Adelaide for a year during the recovery period.
‘The days after Tracy were pretty hectic,’ he says. ‘One of my jobs was to take drugs from the old hospital at Myilly Point out to Casuarina where they were needed. But there was so much debris on the road that we had five flat tyres in getting there, and drove on the rims just to get there.’
Bill says that he and his wife always intended to stay in Darwin on retirement, but were now considering the possibility of moving to the Albury-Wodonga region where they have friends.
‘Darwin is starting to change, and it’s time to start thinking about what the town can offer in retirement,’ he says. ‘Maybe it’s a case that we’ve “aged” out of the town.’
Nevertheless, Bill says he retires from CDU with happy memories of his career.
He plans to continue his historical research and writing in his retirement.