Unit 2: National Significance

The Australian Police Services

Serving police officersPolice have served the Australian community since the establishment of a Nightwatch in the colony of New South Wales in 1789. As European settlement expanded with the establishment of new colonies – and, later, states within a nation – police officers protected the community through the formation of early law agencies such as the Sydney Foot Patrol, the Victoria Gold Escort, the South Australian Mounted Police and the Australian Capital Territory’s Peace Officers.

Today, Australia is served by eight police services: one in each state and the Northern Territory, and the Australian Federal Police, responsible for policing in the Australian Capital Territory.

The principal duties of the police services are the prevention and detection of crime, the protection of life and property, and the enforcement of law to maintain peace and good order.

A unique group of men and women, police personnel deal with the community in a variety of often unpredictable situations. Many require a swift appraisal and quick, yet reasoned and responsible action. This is made more difficult when the situation involves the potential for injury or death to officers or members of the public. The judgement required to operate in such stressful situations is limited to a small number of occupations.

The skills required by police men and women include:

Australian Police have been instrumental in helping some of our regional neighbours to stabilise their law and order climates and to build a law and justice system that the people of those countries deserve to enjoy.

Community Policing

Community policingCommunity policing emerged in Australia in the early to mid-1980s and reflects a growing need to encourage crime prevention through interaction and consultation with local communities. Community policing includes programs involving local communities such as Crime Stoppers and Neighbourhood Watch, Blue Light Discos and anonymous hot lines such as Operation Noah for drug-related crimes.

This element of policing has demonstrated that a partnership between a committed community and a responsive police organisation can have a considerable impact on crime. Community policing practices are underpinned by the ability of police men and women to build effective relationships and partnerships with all areas of the community. This ensures that an environment which supports the fight against crime underpins community policing practices.

National Police Remembrance Day

In April 1991, during the Police Commissioners’ Conference, Commissioner Brian Bull of Western Australia Police proposed the idea of a national day of remembrance for police officers killed on duty.

National Police Remembrance Day

In proposing the idea, Commissioner Bull stated the following:

A national remembrance day for police officers killed on duty will encourage police officers and their families to honour the memory of comrades who have given their lives in service to the community and focus public attention on the men and women of police forces, throughout Australia, whose responsibility it is to ensure public peace and good order, and the difficulty they face in bearing that responsibility.

Attendees at the National Police Remembrance DayThis commissioners’ conference unanimously agreed that a service of remembrance and thanksgiving should be held each year for police officers killed, or who otherwise died in the line of duty. The commissioners also agreed that the service should be held on 29 September, the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel, renowned as a fighter of evil and also the Patron Saint of Police.

National Police Remembrance Day is now an important date on the policing calendar. The day is commemorated by services, held in all capital cities and regional centres, which provide an opportunity for solemn reflection and remembrance. The aim of the service is to encourage serving, retired and former police officers, families and the wider community to honour the memory of comrades and loved ones, whose responsibility it is to ensure public peace and good order. Tragically, on too many occasions, this commitment has resulted in the ultimate sacrifice.

National Police Remembrance Day dedication ceremony

Memorials and the National Capital

All cultures create emblems whose primary purpose is commemoration – the celebration of people, events or ideas that have meaning and value for the community at large. Commemoration in Australian society can take the form of special issue stamps and coins, the naming of holidays and festivals, the dedication of streets, parks buildings and the construction of memorials.

Motorcycle parade on Kings Avenue for National Police Remembrance DayMemorials are a physical expression of prevailing ideas and beliefs. As permanent features, their strength resides in the knowledge that they will remain as constant markers to be appreciated by future generations.

The location of the National Police Memorial within the capital of Australia holds special significance. Many cities and regional areas already have memorials commemorating local police officers who have been killed on duty or who have died as a result of their duties. A national memorial provides a central focus for those affected by loss to gather in one place and acknowledge through national ceremony all Australian police officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

President of the Police Federation of Australia, Peter Alexander, stated this idea clearly in his address at the National Police Memorial dedication on 29 September 2006:

We believe that all Australian police officers who had paid the ultimate price, in service to their communities, were owed a monument in the nation’s capital. Their sacrifice had been too great not to be afforded a permanent national tribute.

Memorials exist in one form or another, in each Australian police jurisdiction. But our view was that a national shrine would enable all police and their families to gather in one place, along with the Australian community, to honour the hundreds who have fallen since 1803.

Police at attention in front of the commemorative wall at the dedication of the National Police Memorial

I have been where you fear to be
I have seen what you fear to see
I have done what you fear to do
All these things I have done for you
I am the man you lean upon
The man you cast your scorn upon
The man you bring your troubles to
All these men I have been for you
The man you ask to stand apart
The man you feel should have no heart
The man you call the man in blue
But I’m just a man, just like you
And through the years, I’ve come to see
That I am not what you ask of me
So take this badge, take this gun
Will you take it? Will anyone?
And when you watch a person die
And hear a battered baby cry
Then do you think that you can be
All these things that you ask of me

Anonymous poem that appeared in Police Life, August 1983