TPAV Legends Series: Ian ‘Bluey’ Fountain
By Brendan Roberts
Ian ‘Bluey’ Fountain joined Victoria Police in 1962. In an era when many joined the job straight out of school, he signed up at age 27, leaving behind his life as a farmer in East Gippsland.
“I just had that inclination that I could help and serve the community, I’d been involved in community events and different committees where I grew up and it seemed a good fit,” he said.
Over the next 27 years, his career would span the full breadth of policing in Victoria, with roles in metropolitan Melbourne in both uniform and as a detective at some of the city’s biggest and busiest stations. There were also stints at regional hubs including Swan Hill and specialist roles in charge of special events, including test cricket and football at the MCG and protests and demonstrations around the Melbourne CBD.
But while the job itself was fulfilling and challenging, Bluey’s passion was for the welfare of his colleagues.
“As a result of being at stations like Prahran, St Kilda and Richmond I got to realise that the welfare of members was probably the most paramount thing in the job and I still believe that, to see the problems of members as they arose and to deal with them is so important,” he said.
Naturally, that ethos led him to develop an affiliation with The Police Association.
“In those days, you really just appointed yourself as a delegate, and if I saw a problem, I’d liaise between members and The Association.”
In the twilight of his policing career from 1984 – 1987, Bluey was appointed to The Police Association executive. The big issues of the day were not far removed from the current work of TPAV in 2021.
“In that era, there was a lot of issues surrounding police powers and ESSS, a lot of work went into that. They were pretty difficult times with the government, because when you’re talking about getting more money for police it can be difficult, there was a great responsibility on us to help look after the financial future of all police and we managed to do that,” he said.
A short retirement
In 1988, Bluey called time on his policing career, but his commitment to the welfare of members would curtail his retirement plans.
Following a spate of police shootings tied to the tragic murders of Constables Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre at Walsh Street, South Yarra in 1988, a coronial inquiry into police shootings was announced. The Police Association needed someone, on its behalf, to assist the members involved, and they had a perfect candidate in mind.
“I had retired and the Association didn’t have a representative when the shootings inquiry started,” he said.
“I was called in in July 1989 and told something big was happening and The Association needed a liaison officer. As a result, I was appointed an investigator and in a sort of counselling role for members involved and they told me it would last for about six months.”
But, when the inquest ended, a criminal case against the members was launched. At the members’ behest, Bluey returned to the role.
It required him to go over the evidence of each police shooting, attend the scenes, methodically analyse the homicide briefs and liaise with the members and the barristers throughout the preliminary hearings and the subsequent murder trials.
Keeping the faith
“It was very taxing mentally for all of the members involved. We were always confident that each one of them would be acquitted and eventually they were,” he said.
“I suppose I was there as a bit of a father figure, to keep them all together and to help them get by and keep their eye on the ball and make sure all the evidence was correct.”
Looking back, he says it was personally rewarding.
“They showed enough faith in me to give me that job, it was a hard time, but it was very worthwhile. It cemented a relationship of trust and loyalty and a lot of friendships and I still have contact with a lot of the people involved,” he said.
Bluey’s exacting work and commitment to the welfare and wellbeing of the members involved over a prolonged period was a key reason for being made a Life Member of The Police Association, an acknowledgment he describes as ‘a great honour’.
“I hope I’ve left a legacy of helping members, because a lot of members needed it, and for me it’s very satisfying work.”