Police Week – Speech in the Federation Chamber 13/09/23
Hansard 13/09/2023 Federation Chamber
Mr LLEW O’BRIEN (Wide Bay) (09:54): National Police Week began with the recognition of outstanding bravery and will conclude with the solemn acknowledgement of police who died in the line of duty. This year National Police Remembrance Day honours them, including Tara police Constable Rachel McCrow and Constable Matthew Arnold and WA’s Constable Anthony Woods. This will also be the final meeting place for the Wall to Wall ride, a charity ride where police and their supporters meet at the National Police Memorial and hold a ceremony.
Last night, the 2023 Police Bravery Awards highlighted the actions of Constable Aaron Larsen and Deborah Bradly of the Wadeye police station, whose selflessness went far beyond anything that can be taught. Wadeye is one of Australia’s largest remote Indigenous communities. It’s on a dirt road about 400 kilometres south-west of Darwin. It has a history of tension between local gangs and families, culminating in a 2022 riot, where about 400 were heavily armed with axes, steel bars, spears, rocks, crossbows and arrows. On Wednesday afternoon, on 17 May, police attended 200 heavily armed people fighting for about 1½ hours. They tried to disperse them. By 6.30 pm, a male had been shot through the leg with an arrow. Medical staff could not break through the riot to help him. Sergeant Jamie Cobern and Constable Matthew Grey rescued him and took him to the health clinic.
Upon arrival, about 100 rioters threw rocks and spears at the trio. He needed urgent medical attention, but a large angry crowd had encircled the clinic. Projectiles were hurled towards them. There was no escape or retreat. Rioters also damaged critical health infrastructure. They attempted to break into the medical facilities. Police used a vehicle as a shield and reversed up to the entry point of the clinic. Officers Bradly and Grey carried the injured male inside while Larsen and Cobern attempted to disperse the crowd while being attacked with arrows and sharpened metal bars. They pushed the crowd back from the clinic while multiple chemical munitions were deployed. Eventually, the crowd began to retreat.
Officers Bradly and Larsen displayed exceptional bravery in hostile and very violent circumstances. They displayed amazing courage and remained steadfast in the face of certain injury to protect the lives of others, despite being under potentially lethal attack for more than 20 minutes. I commend these officers for their incredible bravery—and all police officers who keep us safe 24 hours a day, seven days a week.