Vale Bryan Kelly

Bryan Kelly was an incredible man, a leader, a true humanitarian whose passion, enthusiasm and sheer determination drove results, ones that bettered the lives of all Victorian police officers who followed him.

During his 31-year policing career, the father-of-seven oversaw the establishment of a centralised banking system for the force, the Police Association Credit Union (now BankVic), Victoria Police Legacy and an increased intake of female police members.

Bryan passed just before Christmas, leaving behind a giant legacy. Here is an edited version of the eulogy delivered by Commander Lauren Callaway, Chair of Victoria Police Legacy.  

Bryan joined Victoria Police in 1956, aged 25, and performed general duties at St Kilda Police Station. That year he was on duty for the 1956 Olympic Games.

The following year, while furnishing a house with his wife Peg, Bryan discovered all about ‘hire purchase’.  On realising that Purchase Agreements carried high interest rates, he began his mission to find a more cost effective way of borrowing money.

After two years at Moorabbin Police Sation undertaking highway patrols in both a police vehicle as well as on a motor cycle, Bryan transferred to Moe Police Station were he worked ‘one up’.

It was during his time that a man from the local parish spoke to Bryan about forming a credit union. He was sold on the concept and joined his his first Parish Credit Union. 

Bryan saw the need for a Credit Union in a working class town like Moe, so he established the Parish Credit Union S.K. Moe, which later became the third largest Community Credit Co-op in Victoria. 

As Honorary Secretary, Bryan established all accounts, loan agreements and general running procedures and was responsible to the Board of Directors.

In 1962, Bryan transferred to Springvale Police Station and was upgraded to the rank of Sergeant.

While at Springvale, he began lobbying the Police Department and The Police Association to establish a Police Credit Union. 

In 1967, Bryan was promoted to Sergeant and transferred to City Watch House.

When one of his colleagues aplied for a position on the Police Association Executive, Bryan called him and challenged him on his ideas on the Association’s role in forming a Police Credit Union, but ended up hanging up in disgust because the policeman had the temerity to ask, “what’s a Credit Union?”

In 1972, Bryan transferred back to Springvale as Sergeant and took over as permanent Police Prosecutor at the Springvale Magistrates Court. By this time, he was father of seven.

In 1974, Bryan was promoted to Senior Sergeant and was in charge of shifts at Russell St and was soon was placed in charge of Fitzroy Police Station.

The same year The Police Association Credit Co-operative Limited held a formation meeting, where Bryan was appointed as foundation Chairman.  The Chief Commissioner of the day, Reginald Jackson, said he “didn’t know a great deal about credit union societies but if it was good for members then he was in”. He became the Co-op’s first No 1 account holder. 

Bryan was the only person on the Board with hands-on experience of managing any kind of credit union and he said “if in 5 years we haven’t reached $2 million in assets then we are not doing it right.”

Within two years the Co-op had $5million in assets.

He remained Foundation Chairman for 10 years until 1984, when he retired as Chairman but continued as a Director for another decade.  By this time, The Police Credit Co-op was the second biggest Credit Union in the Southern Hemisphere, behind the Teachers Credit Union. After 20 years the Co-op had $172 million in assets, which is now BankVic today.

It wasn’t the only major financial reform Bryan achieved for Victoria Police and its members.

In 1975, during his time at Springvale, which was the busiest motor registration branch in the State handling over $30K worth of registrations per day, Bryan noticed the Force was carrying in excess of $600K balances on the cheque account statements.  He compiled these statistics and presented them to both the Police Department and Premier Sir Rupert Hamer, with the suggestion of a method to utilise these balances in a beneficial way as consolidated revenue.

Two years later, Bryan was promoted to Inspector and transferred to Research and Planning to implement the concept.

Bryan received the ‘Chief Commissioner’s Certificate’ from Chief Commissioner of the day Mick Miller for his initiative and foresight in conceiving a centralized banking system. He was also presented with a Certificate of Gratitude by Directors, staff and members of the Police Co-operative, for his efforts in the formation and commencement of the Police Association Credit Co-op.

In 1978, Bryan was elected Chairman of the Australasian Federation of Police Credit Unions.  At a Federation conference in Queensland two men asked Bryan’s wife Peg what Victoria did to assist police widows.  Peg immediately spoke to Bryan, who set about establishing Police Legacy for Victorian Police members and their families. 

Later that year, Bryan was transferred to Dandenong and District.  He began writing articles in The Police Association Journal to lobby support for Police Legacy and received full support from Chief Commissioner Miller.

In February 1980, Bryan was elected President, serving his first term in the role until 1985, before a second term from 1992 to 1994. Bryan is a Life Member of Police Legacy.  

Bryan worked closely with Chief Commissioner Mick Miller to ensure the prosperity of Police Legacy. Chief Commissioner Miller determined that every police member would contribute to Police Legacy and a notice was put in the Police Gazette.  Anyone from the Force who objected could come and see Inspector Kelly with their reasons why. No one came forward.

In 1980, Bryan was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal by Victorian Governor Sir Henry Winneke for his “long and valueable service to the Victoria Police Force and efforts in regard to the welfare of police families through both the Police Credit Co-operative and Police Legacy.”

In 1982, Bryan transferred to the Police Careers Office and became the Recruiting Officer, where he found yet another mission to pursue. He discovered that the height resctriction imposed on recruits was preventing women from entering the force and suggested it be abolished. Bryan subsequently recruited large numbers of women to the Police Force, becoming a pioneer of gender equality in Victoria Police 40 years ahead of his time.

Bryan shunned promotion to remain in the Careers Office until he retired in July, 1987.

He attended his last official ceremony on 20 July, 2018 at the opening of the new Police Legacy Building at 71 Drummond Street in Carlton with Peter Ryan and retired Chief Commissioner Mick Miller, his friend and mentor.

Bryan retained his sense of humour until the end. When his doctor told him to prepare his affairs he replied : “so, don’t buy green bananas then!” 

Bryan’s legacy will live on in assisting police members and their families for generations to come.

Together, not separated from his beloved Peg, who followed close behind, for a long rest in peace.