Speakers Profile - Deb Swain

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Deb served for over 20 years on the front line of policing. From her early years of service in the harsh outer western suburbs of Sydney, she became a covert surveillance specialist, secretly following and recording some of Australia's worst criminals. She later became a crime analyst and spent the last ten years of her career working in the hardest job of them all, a Detective Sergeant investigating the sexual and physical abuse of children and adult survivors.

Deb's story is brutally honest. The crimes she investigated were abhorrent. It was soul destroying work. Her commitment to her work and her family however was unquestionable. But perhaps Deb's hardest job of all was standing by her husband, a highly decorated fellow police officer as his mind and life collapsed in front of her eyes from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and chronic depression.

Deb will explain what it is like to see the one you love, the man you respected and the man you thought you knew, shatter into a thousand pieces. This was the man she married in Paris, the man she had spent 5 months riding their bicycles 6,000 klms around Europe with. Now he was just shell of his former self.

She will tell you in her own words why she rejected the urging of the mental health professional to take her husband away and put him in a mental institution. Not only had her husband become suicidal, it became apparent his mental collapse had put Deb's life and the life of their two year old daughter in terrible danger.

Deb stuck by her husband, not just for a month or a year but over so many years as he struggled to get his mental health and his life back together, rebuilding his mind and his body. In doing so, Deb had to sacrifice so much of her own life, including her career, to care and support the man she loved.

Deb knew that her husband's life long goal was to sail across the oceans of the world. She knew this journey was her husband's last chance at making a full recovery. Despite being susceptible to chronic seasickness, she was prepared to take on one of the biggest challenges of her life. In March 2009, with their two young daughters, Deb set sail from England with her husband and sailed their yacht 16,000 nautical miles back to Australia. The gamble paid off. Deb helped her husband become the man he had sought to be for so many years. She had helped him recover and find a life he never thought would be possible again. It is a remarkable love story.

Deb's husband is Allan Sparkes. The recipient of Australia's highest decoration for bravery, The Cross of Valour. He is also an inspirational speaker and the author of the acclaimed book, The Cost of Bravery, published by Penguin Books Australia.
Allan and Deb have appeared on 60 Minutes and A Current Affair. They have also featured in the Weekend Australian Magazine and 'The Two of Us' column in Australia's newspaper magazine of the year, the Good Weekend Magazine.