NSW Fire and Rescue, NSW Rural Fire Service, and the wider community are in mourning today following the loss of two firefighters in separate incidents yesterday. The same day we commemorated the loss of two Queensland Police Officers and a local on the anniversary of the 2022 Wieambilla shooting.
These tragic losses add to the overall death toll of first responders for 2023, reiterating the ultimate sacrifice they make when protecting Australian communities. It was only a month ago that we lost three first responders, across three states, in a single week. Another RFS volunteer lost their life in October responding to a bushfire. Queensland Police lost an officer in August. The devastating loss of life continues, and the impact on our communities is widespread, not just bound to their respective agencies.
When a community member signs up to become a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, or volunteers as a member of the RFS or SES, they do so to keep their communities safer. Without hesitation, they stand on the frontlines every day to answer our calls for help and keep every Australian as safe as possible.
While these losses cut deep to the first responder tribe, we, the community, could do more to recognise their sacrifices. At the height of our war in Afghanistan, when we lost three soldiers in a week, the country stopped to recognise their sacrifice and support those that continued to wear the uniform. Australia cannot leave the first responder community to mourn on its own. We should care not just about the incident that stole these brave first responders away, but also those that remain in the uniform, a uniform that cares and protects us.
These losses are felt throughout the first responder community.
As a country, we need to do more to recognise the daily sacrifice of our first responders and their families. Especially those who pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Fortem, which provides independent and trusted wellbeing and mental health support for first responders and their families is helping this community to be more resilient. However, four years in, we have identified that we are going to need the community to be more invested in supporting those we support. We cannot do it alone.
Without our first responders, we don’t get the immediate and unwavering support we need when we are in danger. Without them, who do we turn to?
Let us all thank this community by taking the time to collectively mourn their loss and ensure we support their ongoing sacrifice.