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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8168

Mr WOOD (9:11 PM) —I second the motion. I fully support the motion moved by the member for Werriwa. I congratulate him on his efforts to bring recognition of the service of police men and women right across the country. This is a matter very close to my heart. As many in the House would be aware, I was a member of the Victoria Police for 18 years. This Monday is National Police Remembrance Day, established in 1989 to honour police members killed in the line of duty. Since 1803, sadly, there have been 719 police officers killed in the line of duty across this nation. Of these, 150 members have been killed in Victoria, 30 of them murdered, going right back to the days of the Kelly Gang.

Encountering danger is a reality our police officers face every day they go to work. As all police know, you never know what is around the corner. Reports of verbal and physical abuse and assaults on police are featured almost on a nightly basis on our TV channels. Sadly, the public in some ways accept this as normal.

Let us go back in time and look at the case of Constable Angela Taylor, who was 22 years of age when she walked out of the Russell Street police complex on 27 March 1986. Constable Taylor had simply walked out to get lunch that day, when the blast rocked the Russell Street headquarters, fatally wounding her and injuring 21 of her fellow officers. Most disturbingly, the culprits who carried out this horrendous attack against not only the police but Victorian society—and who were subsequently caught and convicted—were not doing it for revenge or retaliation; they simply had a hatred of police.

An incident closer to my heart occurred two years later in the Walsh Street murders. On 12 October 2008 it will be 20 years to the day that Constable Steve Tynan and Probationary Constable Damian Eyre were gunned down as they attended to an abandoned car in Walsh Street, South Yarra. The premeditated attack was retaliation for the shooting of a known criminal associate of the offenders. As a young constable not yet six months out of the Victoria Police Academy, the Walsh Street murders affected me greatly. Probationary Constable Eyre was 20, and we entered the police academy at Glen Waverley on the same day. We graduated on the same day, 27 April 1988, but in different squads. The murders of these young men shattered two families and brought up very painful memories for all those still grieving for the loss of Constable Taylor two years before.

Almost 10 years after the Walsh Street murders in Victoria, police were again shocked by the slaying of Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller on 16 August 1998. The pair were gunned down while staking out a restaurant in Moorabbin, where they were trying to protect the community as part of Operation Hamada. There are many difficult parts of a police officer’s job—attending road accidents and domestic violence among them—but, for me, the most difficult moments have always been attending a slain colleague’s funeral.

Being a member of the police force is more than simply a job; it is membership of a brotherhood that many do not understand. When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, it affects all active and former members, not just those who knew the deceased. Few other jobs require you to put your life on the line on a daily basis. It is also hard on the families of serving officers. Every time they hear media reports of police officers being killed or injured in the line of duty, the families and friends of serving officers immediately think of their loved ones and anxiously wait for their safe return.

The death of one of your colleagues brings home the reality that policing is a difficult and dangerous job. It is also one of the most rewarding. National Police Remembrance Day serves as a reminder to all Australians of the dedication, the vulnerability and the courage of police. I strongly support the member for Werriwa’s motion, and again I congratulate him.