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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8169


Mr HALE (9:16 PM) —I thank the member for Werriwa for putting this motion to the House. I am delighted to speak in support of the six points he has made. I thank the members opposite, especially the member for La Trobe for his very heartfelt contribution. Last Wednesday I defended the Northern Territory Police in this place and put on record my absolute support for all the men and women in Australian police forces.

Unfortunately, since the advent of policing in Australia, over 700 officers have paid the ultimate price. Our democracy is a magnificent thing, supported and sustained on the basis that we maintain good law and order. And it is the men and women of the police force who maintain this—men and women from all walks of life, who live and work in the unpredictable nature of policing.

There is a culture in policing, best known to police themselves and the families and friends who love and support them. It is a culture of strength, unity and common purpose. There is no greater purpose to policing than to serve the community. We as a community expect this; however, often we do not provide the support they need or deserve. This is something a good friend of mine, and fellow Territorian, Mr Vince Kelly, President of the Police Federation of Australia, is passionate about.

Constable First Class Michael Deutrom was last week named 2008 Northern Territory Rotary Police Officer of the Year. I congratulate Michael and all police officers for the work they do without fear or favour. It is to those who have paid the supreme sacrifice in upholding the law in the dark and dangerous streets, in remote country towns, in regional and overseas posts, that National Police Remembrance Day is dedicated.

In 1989, commissioners of police around Australasia introduced the police remembrance service. National Police Remembrance Day is observed on 29 September because it marks the feast of St Michael. St Michael is the protector of good over evil and the patron saint of police. On remembrance day every state and territory police force pauses and honours colleagues whose lives have been taken while serving the community. It is an opportunity for family, friends and the community to reflect on police men and women who have lost their lives in the course of doing their job.

To mark the significance that police forces play in our society, the National Police Memorial was completed and was dedicated on 29 September 2006. There are currently 726 names on the honour roll. The first recorded police death was as far back as 1803. Since 1883, when the Northern Territory Police commenced, eight Northern Territory police officers have died in the line of duty. The names of these NT officers are: Mounted Constable Albert McColl, who died in 1933 after he was speared to death on Woodah Island in Arnhem Land while guarding women who had witnessed the murder of several fishermen; Constable Maxwell Gilbert; Constable William Condon, who died in 1952 when he was shot twice after confronting a gunman in Katherine; Inspector Louis Hook; Sergeant Colin Eckert; Senior Constable Allen Price; and Detective Sergeant Ian Bradford. And the last officer that we lost in the Northern Territory was Brevet Sergeant Glen Anthony Huitson. I would like to say a few words about him.

Sergeant Huitson was 38 years old when he died in a gun battle with an armed gunman on 3 August 1999. Hailed as a hero in death, Sergeant Huitson was already due to receive a valour award for bravery because, in 1998, he disarmed a gunman who terrorised passengers on a tourist bus in Litchfield Park. He was truly a hero and epitomises what it means to be a police officer. It is hard to comprehend the heartbreak of the tragedy. I remember at the time how, in one single moment, Lisa Huitson had her loving husband taken away, and their two young children, Joseph and Ruby, lost their dad forever. It is tragic stories like Sergeant Huitson’s that make 29 September such a significant day.

The national police remembrance service will take place here in Canberra next Monday at the National Police Memorial, Kings Park. In Darwin, the police remembrance service will be held next Monday morning at St Mary’s Cathedral. The chequerboard ribbon is officially recognised as the symbol of National Police Remembrance Day. I ask that members of the community wear or display the blue-and-white ribbons during the period of remembrance as a sign of respect and support for police across Australia, for the past and present men and women of our police forces that serve our community without fear or favour. I commend this motion to the House.