As proud Australians we revel in the efforts of courageous men and women who make significant sacrifices and contributions to our community through their volunteering and work duties. Some of these Australians are nominated by their respective peers and acknowledged through the Governor General's Australian Honours and Awards.
The honours and awards seek to recognise the outstanding service and contributions of Australians. The Australian honours and awards system includes the following categories: The Order of Australia, Meritorious Awards, Military Awards and Bravery Decorations. Awards of any nature are an avenue to say 'thank you' to individuals whose efforts make communities and the country a better place to live in.
On Friday, December 4 I had the privilege to witness an outstanding group of men receive The Group Bravery Citation from the Governor of New South Wales Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley at Government House, Sydney. The presentation of the award was held in front other distinguished award recipients and their families.
The recipients of The Group Bravery Citation were recognised for their work during one of the worst prison riots and hostage taking in Australia's history which occurred on October 23, 1986 in 13 Wing of the Metropolitan Remand Centre, Long Bay Gaol. The events that unfolded that evening began when 70 inmates all armed with make shift weapons took three prisons officers hostage. Upon the taking of the hostages the inmates took control of the top landing of 13 Wing. The inmates were blazoned with rage and were intent on harming their hostages.
With the welfare and safety of the hostage prison officers as a top priority, the Malabar Emergency Unit (assault team) moved into the facility and began the dangerous task of rescuing the prison officers thus bringing the rioting inmates to order. The Malabar Emergency Unit (assault team) risked their own lives to save their fellow peers during the event. The team used tear gas, shields and batons during their rescue, however they were subjected to vicious attacks by the inmates which resulted in a number of injuries.
Over the years many transcripts have been written and documented regarding the 13 Wing riot and hostage taking. Following the event major reforms occurred in NSW Prisons as a result of what transpired that night.
In my capacity as the former Shadow Minister for Corrections I had the honour to meet with the hostages and members of Malabar Emergency Unit (assault team) seeking to assist them in the formal recognition of the brave efforts of these officers during the riot. Unfortunately successive governments and the current NSW Government were not interested in bestowing Bravery Awards on these outstanding public servants. Finally after 34 years they received the highest honour possible.
I am sure you join in with me to congratulate and honour: Wayne Carmody, Garry Clarke, Bill Dodson, David Farrell, David Golledge, Domenic Pezzano, the late Mark Russo (award received by his wife, Dorothea Russo), the late Steve Wright (award received by his son, Stephen James Wright), John Screen, Steve D'Silva, Wayne Wadsworth, Garry Lockhart, Robert Menzies and Kenneth Newberry.
Gentlemen, thank you for what you did that night in the line of duty.