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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8166

Mr HAYES (9:06 PM) —I move:

That the House:

(1)   recognises and acknowledges the significant contribution that officers across all Australian policing jurisdictions make to our local communities as we approach National Police Remembrance Day on 29 September 2008;

(2)   remembers and comes together to commemorate the ultimate sacrifices made by all police officers who have been killed in the course of their duties;

(3)   honours the courage, commitment and memory of the many fine men and women who lost their lives in the execution of their official duty each made in serving our community;

(4)   pays tribute to the families and friends of those fallen police officers for the support they unreservedly provided during the career of their respective loved ones;

(5)   encourages all Australians as a sign of respect to those who have fallen, to attend a ceremony or wear or display the traditional blue and white chequerboard ribbon, officially recognised as the symbol of Remembrance Day; and

(6)   supports and thanks all serving police of Australia for their invaluable dedication and commitment to make a difference, defend our way of life and safeguard the peace.

At this time each year, across the nation, we pause to honour the lives and the memory of the many very fine men and women who, in serving our community, have had their lives tragically cut short in the execution of their duties. National Police Remembrance Day is observed on 29 September and is a day that holds significance on the national policing calendar. Since 1989, when National Police Remembrance Day was first recognised, it has become a tradition for police and the greater society to reflect on the invaluable dedication and commitment of police officers, their unquestioning devotion to duty and, importantly, the ultimate sacrifice made by them in serving the community. It is also the day we celebrate the feast of St Michael, the patron saint of police, who, according to church tradition, is the protector of good over evil.

In 2001 it was resolved to establish a National Police Memorial in Canberra. The memorial was completed and dedicated on 29 September 2006. The National Police Memorial is located in Kings Park, on the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin, adjacent to the National Carillon. At this point, I acknowledge that there have been a series of members on both sides of politics, along with the police associations, particularly the Police Federation of Australia, whose continued efforts and hard work have been largely instrumental in establishing the National Police Memorial.

The memorial pays tribute to police officers across the nation who have been killed on duty or have died as a result of their duties since the advent of policing in Australia and recognises the unique nature of policing and the dangers that police face in their daily pursuits. The National Police Memorial was opened with the names of 719 fallen officers inscribed on brass touchstone plates, with the date and the place of their death recorded, and these were distributed randomly across the wall. The memorial honours all police killed on duty, dating back to the first, back in 1803, in Sydney, who was Constable Joseph Luker.

It is with some sadness that I note that, since the opening of the memorial in 2006, there have been a further seven police fatalities. Over the past 12 months, fortunately, there have been no police deaths in Australia. However, I acknowledge with profound sympathy the recent death of Sergeant Don Wilkinson, a New Zealand police officer who was shot down during a covert operation. Once again, that goes to show the nature of policing.

Looking at the names listed on the memorial, there is one thing that is impossible to ignore, and that is the blank plaques. They are for the officers who, sadly, will join their colleagues in years to come. When a police officer dies in the line of duty it is a tragedy which affects us all. It is a heartbreaking loss for our entire community. However, the families of these officers carry a disproportionate burden of the loss. We must reassure them that we will never forget the men and women who have paid the ultimate price for keeping our cities, towns and suburbs safe. Furthermore, we must reassure them that the spirit and the memory of their loved ones will remain with us always.

I greatly value the difficult and often very dangerous job performed by our police. Policing comes with a degree of risk that, fortunately, most of us will never have to face. It is fitting therefore that on National Police Remembrance Day we pay a special tribute not only to the police officers who have died in the line of duty but also to the dedicated men and women who continue to put their hand up to serve and protect our community. It takes a special kind of person and a special kind of courage and commitment to wear the police uniform. We are truly indebted to those men and women who do so. I want to assure every police officer across the nation that we do not take them for granted.

I encourage all Australians to wear a blue-and-white ribbon or to attend a Police Remembrance Day ceremony as a mark of respect for the officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty over the past 154 years and to show strong support for those people who are yet to take the oath of policing. Finally, can I say on behalf of this House, to all those men and women who have given their lives: may they rest in peace.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Is the motion seconded?