30 November 2018

Haydn McComas

Haydn McComas

Frontline Operations Supervisor, Australian Border Force
Master of Education
Bachelor of Social Science

Frontline Operations Supervisor Haydn McComas has led an adventurous life in law enforcement, from the Australian Army to the new national Australian Border Force and has always strived to expand his learning and embrace new opportunities throughout his career. Now the part-time lecturer and passionate volunteer firefighter plans to continue his education by pursuing a PhD at UniSA.

Shortly after joining the Army in 1985, Haydn was appointed to the Military Police where he quickly discovered a passion for policing and law enforcement, a career path he never envisioned before entering the Army. At the age of 23, Haydn left the military and joined the South Australia Police (SAPOL) and spent 14 years working in rural policing, traffic policing, general patrols and, eventually, in the field of intelligence analysis. “One of the wonderful aspects of policing was the unpredictable nature of the work and the need to be able to not only manage a crisis or emergency but also bring some kind of order to complex and difficult situations,” says Haydn.

“I was also deeply touched by the humanity and tragedy of life that unfolds around us daily. In amongst such difficult circumstances I often observed ordinary people rise up to do incredible things.” In 2002 Haydn saw an opportunity to join what was then the Australian Customs Service as a Manager in the Intelligence Branch. He moved into Learning and Development in 2006 to run recruit training for Customs, which introduced an entirely new career direction in adult learning. Haydn contributed to the design and delivery of leadership learning experiences for frontline supervisory leaders, and between 2010 and 2013 spent almost a year on and off living and working in Papua New Guinea designing and delivering recruit training courses.

“After almost 12 years in learning and development I felt it was time to return to operations and a position became available within the newly established Australian Border Force. It’s a complex and dynamic workplace; my role involves managing several different teams responsible for managing sea cargo, ship and other vessel movements into and out of South Australian based international ports.”

Haydn’s extensive tertiary education began as a Police First Class Constable within SAPOL, when his Senior Sergeant asked him whether he had completed any of the formal studies required for a promotion to the position of Senior Constable.

“I told him I hadn’t, to which he gruffly said, ‘if you don’t have a ticket you can’t get on the bus – and it’d be a damn pity if that bus just happened to come along.’ So, I studied an Advanced Diploma in Justice Admin at TAFE, which led me to a Bachelor of Social Science at UniSA.”

After completing his Bachelor degree and moving on to work in Customs, Haydn undertook further tertiary studies through a Graduate Certificate in Legal and Justice Studies at QUT, a Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management at Macquarie University and a Graduate Diploma of Education at UniSA in 2014. “I realized that throughout my academic journey, rather than work following learning, it was a case of learning following work. Law enforcement put me into new and interesting roles and each time I committed myself to diving in and undertaking study to do the best work I could. Each piece of learning has literally built upon the last.”

After finishing his Graduate Diploma and earning an impressive GPA, Haydn was encouraged by his UniSA lecturers to consider a Master of Education. His thesis explored learning for ethical leadership in a law enforcement environment, and this research journey took him to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and to Thailand and Singapore where he delivered learning experiences for the United Nations International Police Organisation (INTERPOL).

Alongside his professional career, Haydn is passionate about volunteering and was a volunteer leader with the Scouts for almost 20 years. Allowing younger volunteers to take his place within Scouts, he then moved to the SA Country Fire Service (CFS) where he has volunteered for past 6 years.

“Volunteering has been a constant thread throughout my life. As a young person, Scouting challenged me, allowed me to see what I could be and provided me with outstanding role models for what has become an adventurous life. As a volunteer leader I had the chance to positively influence other young people in the same way.

“As a Senior Firefighter with the CFS I have been privileged to serve as a crew leader in some quite challenging incidents. The greatest gift of volunteering with the CFS has been to serve alongside some truly authentic people whose sole motivation is to protect and serve their communities.

“I strongly encourage anyone, young people in particular, to consider volunteering. Organisations like the Scouts and the CFS offer experiences, learning pathways and formal qualifications that can help build careers.”

Haydn was recently appointed as an Adjunct Lecturer at UniSA’s School of Education, where he hopes to help shape and deliver expanded professional development experiences for adult learners. He also looks forward to conducting more consultancy work in the future, where he can deliver engaging and transformational learning experiences around ethical leadership for frontline leaders.

“I have also just been accepted into a PhD at UniSA; my project aims to further understand organisational culture and leadership learning pathways, and how these impact interpretations of what it means to be ethical amongst frontline leaders across the military and law enforcement regulatory spectrum.

“It’s important to always keep learning because the environment is constantly evolving. If you keep your professional development fresh, you keep your career fresh, and in doing so you continually pave the way to new opportunities for yourself.

“Embrace new and challenging experiences, even if they seem scary at first. I never thought I’d have what it takes to complete a Master of Education, but thanks to the commitment of my supervisors and my own perseverance, I got there—and now I can see my research making a real difference globally.”

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