Speech – National Police Remembrance Day – House of Representatives
Police Remembrance Day is a solemn occasion when we commemorate and pay tribute to those officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty and convey our respects to their families and colleagues. On 29 September we recall the names of every officer who has made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our communities.
A police officer never knows what scenes they will be confronted with when they start their shift. Tragically, some officers don’t make it home to their families. That’s why it’s so important that we as a community remember what our police face every day and pay tribute to those who make the ultimate sacrifice.
This year I attended the Police Remembrance Day service at Maryborough, where more than 200 officers, family and friends came together to reflect on the service of police officers at the special ceremony at the LifeChurch. It was also a great honour to ride in this year’s Wall to Wall Ride for Remembrance with my daughter Yve. This year the Wall to Wall event saw more than 2,000 motorcycle riders across Australia, including a contingent from Texas in the United States, meet at locations in their jurisdictions before riding to the National Police Memorial in Canberra. This year, the name of Queensland Senior Constable Brett Forte, who was tragically killed on duty in the Lockyer Valley in May this year, was delivered to the National Police Memorial wall in a moving ceremony. I thank all the organisers of the Wall to Wall Ride for Remembrance and particularly acknowledge the Queensland Police official motorcycle riders, Senior Sergeant Bradyn Murphy, Inspector Peter Flanders and Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart, who rode to Canberra and performed the solemn duty of placing the ceremonial baton containing Senior Constable’s Forte name at the wall.
In Australia, police uphold the rights and freedoms of the individual by protecting life and property and keeping the peace. As a former police officer I understand the immense satisfaction, but also the difficulties, that police encounter every time they put on the uniform. It’s a job where at the beginning of every shift officers have the incredibly weighty task of loading bullets into a weapon that has the primary purpose of applying lethal force. Following that there is the weightier task of walking out into everyday life with no certainty as to what serious challenges it’s going to ask you to solve. It’s a job where your training and your colleagues are your greatest assets.
Policing is a job where most members of society trust you and are happy to see you out and about, where more often than not people want to strike up a conversation with you for no particular reason other than they approve of the job that you’re doing walking the beat and keeping the peace. It’s a job where your own physical and mental wellbeing is regularly placed on the line to help others and where the highs of success are often matched by the lows of tragedy.
I’m pleased the coalition government has committed $1 million towards a new campaign designed to promote the awareness of mental health challenges faced by police officers. This program will be run by the Police Federation of Australia, promoting awareness, understanding, prevention and early intervention into mental health issues through a range of media workshops and documentary videos. The experiences police are exposed to throughout their careers can have a profound and lasting psychological effect, not only on them but also on their families. Police are expected to act with bravery and they must perform their duty without fear, favour or hesitation, often in the face of great danger. It’s a very demanding vocation that can leave psychological scars such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression if the mental health aspects of the job aren’t managed carefully.
I often say that, the more we talk about mental illness and mental health and promote the programs and services that are available to address it, the more the stigma is removed and the more likely people who feel they might need some help will seek it sooner, rather than letting it build up. I hope this new campaign funded by the coalition government will do just that.
Finally, I want to convey my respects to all police, past and present, and commend them for the incredible job they do every day.