May 12, 2020

Condolences – Leading Senior Constable Taylor, Senior Constable King, Constable Humphris & Constable Prestney – Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (14:09): on indulgence—I join with the Prime Minister in paying tribute to these Australian heroes: Constable Josh Prestney, Constable Glen Humphris, Senior Constable Kevin King, Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor. Hold on to their names—four names that were joined together as members of Victoria Police, four names that were joined in duty, in service, in honour. But they should never have been joined together in this way these four Australians who signed up to protect us, these four Australians who were just doing their jobs on an ordinary day on an ordinary stretch of the Eastern Freeway, four Australians who went to work but never came home, four Australians with family, with friends, with workmates.

Even in the strangest of times, with the world up-ended all around us, what happened on that bleak April night shook the nation. Victoria Police have never experienced a greater loss of life in a single day, and the blow is felt in the heart of every single person who serves in that force. It is a blow that is felt in every police force and every law enforcement body across the nation. We can scarcely imagine their final moments.

It should never have been this way. Time and again we see our fellow Australians risking themselves for the rest of us, whether it’s our firefighters, our medical workers, our defence personnel or our police officers. They know the risks, but they go to work anyway, and for the sake of the rest of us they put their lives on the line.

It was such a cross-section of life that was taken that night. Between them, they spanned the spectrum of a police career. Josh only graduated from the academy late last year, a proud day when his badge was pinned on his uniform by his younger brother, Alex, who is also a police officer. Lynette joined the force in 1989 and along the way had been awarded the National Medal, the National Police Service Medal and the Victoria Police Service Medal. Glen brought with him a lifetime in other fields, including carpentry and sports science, and took to policing like it was just meant to be. And Kevin was described by a colleague as ‘an older head with a lot of life experience who always made good judgement calls and decisions.’ Such different people united in their desire to serve and to help—to help their colleagues, to help their fellow Australians, to approach the task of enforcing the law with humanity and with empathy.

Each of these four deaths would have affected us. For them to have all been taken together like this has hit the nation hard, and we’re hit so hard because we still have that strong sense at the moment that we’re all in this together, that we all have a part to play to ensure our society is everything that it can be, that we can be as good as we can be. Glen, Lynette, Kevin and Josh were all a part of that, and even for those of us who did not have the good fortune to have known them personally it is impossible not to feel their absence, a sense that there is now a void where there shouldn’t be.

While we grieve for them, we embrace those they have left behind—their families, their loved ones, their mates and that other family each of them had: their colleagues. We can only begin to imagine their sense of loss and shock. For them the world is turned upside down. The grief may soften in time, but it will not fade. I say to them: We cannot fill the hole in your lives. We cannot ease your anguish. We can only offer the consolation that you are in the nation’s hearts. We grieve for you and your loss not just of your loved one but of everything in which they were a vital ingredient. We grieve for the dreams that will not be fulfilled; the music that will not be played; the phone that will not ring; the jokes, the conversations and the quiet moments that will not be shared; that joint elation that will no longer brighten the good times; and the support that will no longer lighten the bad. Expressions of love can only travel in one direction now.

I turn to the words of Glen’s partner, Todd Robinson:

… he wore a uniform, but he was a person under that uniform who came home to someone, and that day he didn’t.

Our hearts are wide open to all of you—to Todd; to Lynette’s husband, Stuart Schultz, and their children, Nathan and Alex; to Kevin’s wife, Sharron Mackenzie and their children, William, James and Henry; to Josh’s partner, Stacey, his parents, Andrew and Belinda, and his brother, Alex. We will remember you, Josh, Lynette, Glen and Kevin. We will remember you for the lives you lived and the people you were. We give thanks for your service. May you all rest in peace.

The SPEAKER: As a mark of respect, I ask all present to rise in their places.

Honourable members having stood in their places —

The SPEAKER: I thank the House.