It’s been a year bookended by two profound domestic tragedies. Two catastrophes that left us reeling in horror - along with much of the world. The invaluable role of our first responders, their courage, duty and selfless dedication has been on graphic display. Like all of us, they are not perfect, as the police communication issues last week duly illustrated. But for me, the cops, firefighters, ambos and hospital workers are not just everyday heroes, but heroes everyday.
Living and breathing the unrivalled horrors of the Christchurch earthquakes, vividly reinforced to me the super-human demands, thrown their way. And how they respond like grace under fire, no matter how gruelling, how insurmountable, how hopeless the mission may look.
Which is why I find it truly repugnant that so many first responders are abused and attacked, on the job, in the line of duty. And the sheer volume of such abuse and violence continues to rocket.
In the past year, over two thousand and three hundred St John ambulance staff were abused or physically attacked. Some were knocked unconscious or bottled.
Hundreds of cops have been physically dealt to in the past twelve months. In fact, the level of attacks on police has jumped twenty two per cent per cent year on year, as have attacks requiring medical treatment. The lack of respect for the uniform, by the crud of society, is a national disgrace.
You can add to that list, prison officers. On average, two of them are attacked everyday.
And that’s why I am pleased Darroch Ball’s First Responders Bill has just passed its first reading.
It would create a new standalone offence of "injuring a first responder or prison officer with intent.” And it carries a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in the can.
It won’t change the world overnight, but it’s a start, a stand, reflecting society’s revulsion at first responders, of any stripe, being spat on, bitten, bashed and abused. We stand with you