National Police Remembrance Day Service, Parkes ACT
Good afternoon. Thank you again, Commissioner, for your kind invitation to Linda and me to attend and participate in the National Police Remembrance Day Service.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal People, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.
I also want to acknowledge our distinguished guests. In doing so, we offer our heartfelt condolences and support for the families of fallen officers who are here today. For those families who cannot be with us today, we offer that same message.
In this speech at this service last year, I mentioned Linda’s and my experience of attending the Attestation Parade at the New South Wales Police Academy in Goulburn quite a number of times during my term as Governor of NSW. I recalled how one of the most powerful moments on that parade ground was when the young recruits were asked to reveal, by taking off a blue tape around their headband, the blue- and- white-checked band around their hat. That particular moment brought an emotional gasp from the crowd and it was a very symbolic, important moment in the lives of those young men and women, as they said to the community, ‘We are now members of your Police Force.’
That act passed on so many messages to the community and to the officers themselves. It told them about their new status – where they stood in relation to the community. It told them about their responsibilities towards the community and towards each other. For those in the community, it sent a very strong message that these are the people who will protect us – 24/7, 365 days a year. These are the people who will protect us and keep our society and our communities safe.
‘Protection’, of course, has loomed large in our lives over the past 12 months since we last held this service. Especially during the bushfires we experienced from September through to March this year, and of course from January onwards during the pandemic that we are now experiencing.
All of you here today, in uniform and watching online, I’m sure will attest that administering public order is not easy. Protecting the community in such situations is not easy. In the case of the bushfires, you were responsible for coordinating and organising mass evacuations – scenes we have not seen in our country for years, for decades. You were responsible for closing major highways, the lifeblood of the many communities up and down our east coast. You were responsible for assisting communities to evacuate on mass and for going to homes and asking people to leave when everything they hold precious is there in front of them.
These people were, understandably, in a highly emotional state. And in some instances during the pandemic you have had to conduct your duties in the face of community aggression and push-back. Constraining Australians at the best of times is not an easy thing to do. Constraining them at a time when they feel that their liberties might be under pressure – that they want to do something different, that they want to live a normal life – can be challenging, difficult, sometimes dangerous and sometimes controversial. But such is the business of policing. And such is the business of being a policeman or a policewoman. Policing asks a lot of all officers involved in these duties.
That is why policing requires strong values – strength of character, sound judgement, intelligence, patience, compassion and an ability to handle yourself under pressure. The men and women who join the Police Force do so because they believe they can meet that high standard. They do so because they have an overwhelming desire to protect their fellow Australians and to ensure our society is a safe place in which to live.
Sadly and regrettably, in carrying out this important work you put your own lives at risk. In the midst of the pandemic, on the Eastern Freeway in Melbourne on Wednesday 22 April, our nation lost four, fine Police Officers.
- Constable Glen Andrew Humphris
- Senior Constable Kevin Neil King
- Constable Joshua Andrew Prestney
- Leading Senior Constable Lynette Rosemary Taylor
They were killed in tragic circumstances. Linda and I, on behalf of the nation, extend our condolences to the families of these four officers. We acknowledge the attendance here today of the parents of Constable Humphris – Katie Tyson, and Mark Humphris and his family. Their presence reminds us of the burden that families carry in supporting those who are out on our streets every day of the year. We thank you all for carrying that burden for us.
The deaths of these four fine officers highlight the unpredictability of Police service.
Today, Australia remembers those decent and brave men and women who lost their lives while in the line of duty or as a result of injuries sustained during policing.
Their names are on this wall behind me and in front of you.
Their lives have meaning.
We hold them, rightly, in the highest of esteem.
We ask a lot of our Police. We expect them to be on the beat every day, and they are. They are protecting our community, your community. It’s comforting to know that they are there.
It’s appropriate on this day – National Police Remembrance Day – to acknowledge:
- The critical role of the Police in our community.
- The risks associated with their work.
- And the sacrifices made by the 798 fallen officers whose names appear on the National Police Memorial, and the impact of their loss on family, colleagues and loved ones.
Today, and every day – EVERY SINGLE DAY – we should and must give thanks for our Police Force.
Thank you for what you do.
Thank you for protecting us all.