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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10145

Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (18:15): In light of the approaching National Police Remembrance Day, I am thankful for this opportunity to acknowledge the significant role police officers play in our community and the great deal of risk and sacrifice that comes with their job. National Police Remembrance Day is held on 29 September each year to reflect on those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Each year thousands of people across Australia stop to pay tribute to the brave members of the police force who have lost their lives and to offer support to their families.

I have felt compelled to raise awareness of the National Police Remembrance Day as I proudly served my community as a police officer for 25 years, reaching the rank of sergeant. I know what it is like to leave your family at home each day, to go out and protect other families in the community. I joined the New South Wales Police Force in October 1985, graduating from class 216. My career in the Police Force was very rewarding, but as an officer I had to deal with many challenging and confronting situations. I will never forget my first autopsy, my first deceased person or my first fatal motor vehicle accident that I attended.

During my time in the New South Wales Police Force, I saw firsthand the devastating effects the death of a colleague can have on their family, friends and other police officers, and the entire community in which they serve. A death within the force is a solemn reminder of the dangers our police force face and the risks they must take every time they go to work to keep our community safe. As any member of an emergency service would know, it takes a great deal of courage to leave your own family behind to protect those who you have never met each time you go to work. When an officer is killed in the line of duty, there is no telling how many police officers are affected from all over Australia. Many officers reconsider the risk they take every day and the family members they would leave behind if something were to go wrong.

The camaraderie in the police force is second to none. That is why so many police officers and former members of the police force will stop to remember their fallen comrades on 29 September. Even if they do not personally know an officer who has been killed, they know how easy it could be for a day at work to turn into a horrible nightmare for themselves or their colleagues.

Each year a Wall to Wall Ride for Remembrance is held to honour those comrades who have fallen in the line of duty. Officers travel from the Police Wall of Remembrance at the Domain in Sydney to Canberra and are joined by police officers from Australia's other states and territories along the way. The ride is a great tribute to those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the community. It not only commemorates the sacrifice made by the fallen officers but raises money for the loved ones they have left behind.

Previously in this House I have spoken about two courageous police officers who were killed whilst on duty. Detective Senior Constable Damian Leeding was killed after responding to an armed robbery and hostage situation on the Gold Coast in May 2011. Constable Leeding was described by his family and peers as a great father, a top bloke, a larrikin and a hero. His death had a devastating impact on the Gold Coast community and police officers across the country.

I also spoke about Senior Constable Jim Affleck, a highway patrol officer from my electorate who was run down during a police pursuit along the F5 in 2001. Jim was laying road spikes to stop a stolen vehicle when he was run down at high speed. I remember that day like it was yesterday, as would many others in Macarthur. After his death, Jim was awarded the Commissioner's Valour Award for his exceptional bravery. Jim was a dedicated professional police officer and his death shocked not only the police force but the entire Campbelltown community in which he served. The deaths of these two police officers, as with any police officer killed on duty, demonstrate the danger members of the force put themselves in every day to keep the community safe.

I join many people in the Macarthur electorate who have the utmost respect and admiration for the members of the police force. These men and women take great risks every time they go to work and they deserve so much respect from the community for risking their lives to protect others. Macarthur has more than 300 police officers working in Camden, Campbelltown and Macquarie Fields local area commands, serving their local community. These men and women worked very hard to fight crime and keep our residents safe. Away from work they are normal people with loving families, with high hopes and dreams for the future. At work they are brave and courageous men and women who do everything they can to protect my electorate.

Earlier this year, I was proud to recognise in this House the recipients of the Macarthur Rotary eighth annual Police Officer of the Year awards. The award ceremony is an opportunity for Rotary clubs in the Macarthur region, on behalf of the community, to recognise the good work being done day in and day out by the majority of the men and women in the New South Wales Police Force. In 2014, the Macarthur Police Officer of the Year award was presented to Leading Senior Constable Eleanor Jenkins from the Campbelltown local area command. LSC Jenkins is a perfect example of the dedication and commitment that our police officers give to the job every time they go to work, combining shift work and family responsibilities whilst doing front-line policing duties.

Our police force is made up of thousands of hardworking, dedicated and courageous people like this, and has been for many decades. In 2012, New South Wales commemorated the 150th anniversary of the New South Wales Police Force. The anniversary was held on 1 March because, on this day in 1862, the independent police units of a colony were amalgamated into the single New South Wales Police Force. These officers serve our community with great integrity and honour. I hope that one day everyone will appreciate the sacrifices they make and the risks they take to protect us.

For some, being a police officer follows a long line of family members who also served in the police force. Senior Sergeant John Thompson celebrates 52 years in the force this year. He began his career in 1962. I was fortunate enough to work with Senior Sergeant Thompson towards the end of my career in the police force. He comes from a long line of dedicated police officers. Sergeant Thompson's great-great-grandfather, John Carroll, caught the bushranger Captain Moonlight. His grandfather and father were also police officers. Now Sergeant Thompson is the second longest serving police officer in New South Wales.

I mention Sergeant Thompson today because he is a fine example of the dedication and commitment that our police officers give to the job. It is not an easy job to do. Far too many officers have paid the ultimate sacrifice and have lost their lives doing it. Unless you have worked in the police force, or have a family member who does, it is hard to comprehend the dangers these men and women put themselves in every day to keep the community safe. Today, I would like to make a special mention of all the policemen and policewomen working tirelessly in my electorate. Macarthur owes a great deal to these police officers for their ongoing commitment to protecting our community. On behalf of the people of Macarthur, I would like to thank those who currently serve our community. You deserve the highest respect for the work you do.

Over the years, I have met with many of these officers who love their job serving the community in this way. But no matter how much they love being a police officer, they all know the risks and dangers they face every time they put their uniform on. In New South Wales alone, we have lost more than 240 police officers in the line of duty since August 1803 for a variety of causes. These include being shot by bushrangers, drowning whilst crossing a creek, being shot by an offender, being assaulted, motorcycle accidents during pursuit and motor vehicle accidents. No matter how they died, it is terribly sad when the men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting others are killed whilst doing so.

Today, I would also like to pay tribute to Police Legacy organisations across the country. Police Legacy is a not-for-profit organisation which provides emotional and financial support to the widows and children of deceased police officers. The mission statement of the New South Wales Police Legacy is that no widow, widower or child of deceased, serving, or former police officers will ever feel forgotten or in need.

The New South Wales organisation currently provides support for more than 1,300 police family members, caring for children as young as two and widows as old as 101. As of May 2014, Police Legacy Queensland was supporting 48 families. South Australian Police Legacy has been in operation since 1989. It cares for more than 360 widows and 60 children. There are currently 361 widows, three widowers and 43 children under 20 years of age being supported by Western Australian Police Legacy. Victorian and Northern Territory Police Legacy organisations are also strongly committed to supporting families, widows and their children. Today, I would like to acknowledge the good work of Police Legacy who look after remaining loved ones of the police officers that have been killed in the line of duty.

In the lead-up to National Police Remembrance Day, my heart goes out to the families of all police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. I offer them my heartfelt condolences. I am sure that they share with me the hope that one day society will understand and respect the great undertaking that is required to serve as a police officer. Until then, I am sure the brave men and women of Australia's police forces will continue to protect their communities despite the dangers they face and the harsh reality that some may not return home to their families. I believe it is important that we in this House continue to express our gratitude and reaffirm our support for the nation's 56,000 police officers whose dedication and commitment ensure continuous peace and safety across our communities.