This month, 18 motorcycle riders once again rode from Tasmania to Canberra, via the Spirit of Tasmania, to commemorate fallen comrades.
With the support and assistance of the Police Federation of Australia, a group of police, serving and retired, were brought together to develop Australia’s own memorial ride in 2010.
The aims of the ride are to highlight the positive image of police in the promotion of motorcycle safety and awareness, raise much-needed funds in support of their respective Police Legacies and to remember mates.
The riders, all serving or retired police, friends and family, many of whom have ridden every year since 2010, make the journey at their own cost primarily to honour those fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends and colleagues who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
This pilgrimage begins from every state in Australia with some riders covering up to 10,000km on a round trip to pay their respects.
I have had the honour of riding in or attending most of these rides. This year Tasmania had its biggest contingent yet make the trip, joining more than 1800 riders on September 15 at the National Police Memorial in Australia’s capital.
This year, the hollowed-out Huon pine Tasmanian baton contained a parchment with the names of six historic additions to the wall. The names were added yesterday, when we marked National Police Remembrance Day.
Sadly the West Australian baton this year contained the name of 1/C Constable Denis Green, killed on duty in December.
Tragically, this year a Victorian rider also lost his life on the Wall to Wall Ride. Detective Senior Sergeant Vic Kostiuk, who was riding with his son when the incident occurred, died at the scene after being struck by a vehicle. A very moving service was held for Vic before the official ceremony.
Policing is not an easy profession and is one that carries more pressure and risk than many others. Only those in the job and their families really understand.
You are never really off duty and the story of West Australian Senior Constable Stephanie Bochorsky is testament to that.
Last week in Canberra the first Police Bravery Awards were held and the deserving winner was Senior Constable Bochorsky who, while off duty, rescued two girls aged four and seven on the night their father poured petrol on them and set the four-year-old alight. Stephanie, off duty in pyjamas and socks, ran into the house to be confronted with the horrific sight of the small girl on fire and her sister being doused in petrol also.
Stephanie’s quick thinking and actions saved the lives of those two small girls. The journey to recovery for all involved will be a long one. Mental and physical damage was inflicted on this night. Stephanie was chosen from more than 60 nominations across the country.
The Police Federation of Australia, who sponsored the event, reported Stephanie as saying: “This honour was completely unexpected and I’m very humbled”.
Fighting off the offender, Stephanie removed the children from the house and cared for the severely injured young girl.
“I took an oath to serve and protect the community, on or off duty, uniform or not, 24/7.”
The first recipient of the now annual awards, Senior Constable Bochorsky believes that the value of recognition cannot be underestimated.
“These awards make you feel valued. It is nice to know that your actions are acknowledged and what you went through is validated.”
The award was presented by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton at a gala dinner at the National Museum of Australia and her bravery was acknowledged in parliament Question Time by the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.
Sadly, Stephanie’s efforts don’t make headlines across the nation. Why is that? Is it due to society becoming desensitised to violence, which is increasing in its ferocity?
Or is it that the actions of police across the country and in particular Tasmania too often go unnoticed because “that’s their job”.
Tasmanian officers deal with volatile situations every day and make split-second decisions which could have a serious impact on them or the person they are dealing with.
Bravery takes many forms. An act of bravery, such as Stephanie’s, occurs without thought for what the personal consequences might be.
The scream of a mother who has witnessed her child set alight triggered Stephanie into action, acting on instinct and training.
The officers who entered the Lindt cafe did so in the very real belief that they might not survive. That too is bravery.
It is often said that police are running into danger while all others are running away. There is a difference between running into a situation, on duty, armed and with back-up and running into the unknown alone, off duty armed only with your wits and training. But both are acts of bravery.
Sadly, police attend these types of incidents every day somewhere in the world. They don’t all end well, for police or those directly involved.
The long-term effects of dealing with trauma is now being highly publicised. Not everyone can win a bravery award but everyone carries out acts of bravery. They just go unnoticed.
“Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death,” Omar N. Bradley said.
If you see your police on the street or they come to your house, simply say thank you. Thank you for doing what I don’t want to do, seeing what I don’t want to see, and going where I fear to go.
Gavin Cashion is acting president of the Police Association of Tasmania.
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