Thursday, 20 September 2018
I'd like to inform you that we have joining us in the gallery this afternoon the recipient of the inaugural National Police Bravery Award, Senior Constable Stephanie Bochorsky. On behalf of the House I would like to extend a warm welcome to you.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
On indulgence, I would like to add my sincere congratulations on behalf of the House, and particularly the government members of the House, to Senior Constable Stephanie Bochorsky for her incredible bravery. I'm so pleased it has been recognised in the way it has been in this award.
I also want to thank you, as there are others in this chamber who are the children of police officers, as I am, and we know the sacrifices that police officers make every single day. We understand the impacts that has on the families of police officers. When you take those risks, we know there are so many other things pressing in around you in the many other responsibilities that you have.
Some nights ago, back in 2015, Stephanie heard screams from a neighbour's home. Though off duty, she rushed into that home and found a child alight, on fire, and another being doused in petrol. It's unimaginable. The children were four and seven years of age. That's enough to take in just at that. Stephanie fought off the man—I'd hardly describe him as one—who was the children's father, removed the children from the house and cared for the family. None of us can really comprehend the terror and the evil of that night and, of course, our thoughts and prayers are with the children this day.
It said a lot about what Stephanie believes her service is about. Not just police officers but those who work in our paramedic and ambulance services—my brother is a paramedic—our fire services and our emergency services all have a similar culture. She said, 'I took an oath to serve and protect the community on or off duty, uniform or not, 24/7.' Everyone in this chamber has sworn an oath. You have given us an incredible lesson about how you live up to one. Thank you, Stephanie.
I thank the Prime Minister for his heartfelt words. I would like to say on behalf of the opposition to Senior Constable Stephanie Bochorsky: you honour us by your presence today. I congratulate you on your award. It was an inaugural award presented through the Police Federation of Australia. The award made by your peers shows the respect of your peers, and I know you value that very much.
The Prime Minister has just detailed much of Stephanie's extraordinary story: one moment relaxing in front of the television at home on a Friday night; suddenly, still in your pyjamas and your socks, sprinting across the street and into harm's way; answering a call for help; and finding yourself in the midst of violence and cruelty which is impossible to contemplate or comprehend as a parent. You see a four-year-old girl clinging to the bars of her cot, already in flames, and her father pouring petrol on her sister's face. If it wasn't for you, Senior Constable, confronting the perpetrator, carrying both children from the house, prying the arms of the youngest one from around your neck to soak in the cold water of your own bath at home, both of those girls would not be alive today. It is as simple as that.
Stephanie, yesterday I asked you a question I'm sure you have heard a thousand times by now: how did you do it? You replied, as so many modest heroes do, by saying, 'I think anyone would have acted in the same way in that situation.' We all hope that we would, but I think in our hearts we wonder if we could. But, Stephanie, you did. The other thing you said to me yesterday that really struck me is that the rescue was the easy part; it was what came after that was difficult: your memories of the night, the scene set into your mind, the ongoing communication with these poor kids, those wakeful moments of reflection when you have to ask yourself—you wouldn't be human if you didn't, like every one of us here—how could anyone do that to a child? How could any parent do that to a child?
I'm not sure there is an easy road back from that and what you've seen. I don't think there is a quick or quiet way to put those things out of your mind. Our police officers, our emergency services personnel—they are jobs that follow you home. Whether you're in uniform or out of uniform, you always wear what you've seen. But in part your off-duty awareness is the reason why these two little children are alive. I think you remind us that there's much that we can do to improve the way we support people who serve our community in the way that you do. Senior Constable Borchorsky, two precious little girls owe you their lives, Australia owes you its thanks and this House owes you a debt of gratitude, because you remind us of what's really important.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!