The Establishment of the National Police Memorial in Canberra

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Police Associations/Unions in Australia were in the vanguard of moves to establish a memorial to all Australian Police Officers killed on duty.
In the early 1990’s the Police Federation wrote to each of the Australian Police Commissioners seeking their support for the construction of a memorial in the National Capital. The Commissioners subsequently referred the issue to the 1994 Australasian and South West Pacific Region Police Commissioners’ Conference in Canberra. That Conference passed a resolution supporting the concept and established a Committee to pursue the issue. The Police Federation provided a representative to that Committee.

The first meeting was on 14 October 1994. The initial target date for the completion and dedication of the Memorial was National Police Remembrance Day 1998. A further meeting of the Committee was held in February 1995. The committee reported to the Conference of Commissioners of Police of the Australasian and South West Pacific Region in New Zealand in March 1996. At that Conference a number of concerns were raised. As a result a decision was taken to defer the target to inaugurate the Memorial from September 1998 to September 2000. The issue was again re-visited by the Commissioners at their conference in 1997. A proposed Forum of Business Leaders and Police Commissioners did not eventuate and the matter was put on hold.

In 1998 the Minister for Urban Services in the ACT, Mr Brendan Smyth raised the issue of the establishment of a national memorial to police and emergency service workers killed on duty. The PFA were adamant that it should be a police specific memorial and not a joint emergency services memorial. A number of meetings followed where some key principles were agreed upon

  • that full Police Association/Union involvement was critical to success, along with the unanimous support of the various State/Territory/Commonwealth Governments and Police Services;
  • that the memorial would be dedicated to all Australian Police killed on duty, (although the definition was still to be determined);
  • that the memorial would be located somewhere within the Parliamentary (National) Triangle in Canberra; and
  • that it would not be located on Anzac Parade.

Issues that were still to be resolved included:

  • the source of funding for the project;
  • the design of the memorial;
  • the location;
  • what constitutes “killed on duty”; and
  • the time frames for construction and dedication, although it would be appropriate that it be dedicated on National Police Remembrance Day.

In March 1999 the PFA received correspondence from Gary Humphries MLA, ACT Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Brendan Smyth MLA, ACT Minister for Urban Services seeking support for a national memorial to police and law enforcement officers who had “…lost their lives in the line of duty”. The correspondence made specific reference to supporting a “Police” specific memorial, as opposed to an Emergency Services Memorial.

Then, without warning, in August 1999, Senator Ian Macdonald, Federal Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government announced in Parliament that a National Emergency Services Memorial would be established in Canberra. This announcement caught everyone by surprise.

Whilst the PFA acknowledged that finally an announcement of a memorial had been made, it could not support a combined emergency services memorial, as it had by then been campaigning for over a decade, with support from Police Commissioners and various State and Territory Leaders and Governments, for a police specific memorial.

Unfortunately the Prime Minister’s Office at that stage was not supportive of a stand-alone memorial for Police.

In early April 2001, representatives of the PFA met with the Federal Justice Minister, Senator Chris Ellison in Canberra. The issue of the Police Memorial was raised and the views of the Federation were strongly supported by the Minister. The Federation committed to provide him with a submission outlining the history of the issue and the views of the Federation. That submission was provided to the Minister on 24 April 2001 and on 27 June at the Australian Police Ministers’ Council meeting it was unanimously endorsed. Unfortunately the Prime Minister’s Office at that stage was not supportive of a stand-alone memorial for Police.

Between the submission being provided to the Minister in April and Minister Ellison’s announcement on 28 September 2001 that the Memorial would be constructed, the PFA lobbied the Government, including the Prime Minister’s Office and the Opposition, for their support. In early September Mark Burgess, PFA CEO and Chris Hayes, PFA Industrial/Political consultant met with Mr Max Moore-Wilton, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet seeking his support for our proposal. As a result of that meeting, Mr Moore-Wilton spoke directly to the Prime Minister who subsequently agreed to the construction of a National Police Memorial. Our 20 year campaign was finally bearing fruit.

The Police Ministers’ Council had agreed on a total budget of $2.4 million funded 1/3 Police Associations/Unions, 1/3 the Commonwealth and 1/3 State & Territory jurisdictions. This required the PFA to fund $800,000 towards the cost of the Memorial.

A National Police Memorial Working Group was initially formed comprising of John Davies (Deputy Commissioner AFP) Chairman, Bruce Wernham (Deputy Commissioner NT Police) and Mark Burgess (PFA). That committee was eventually expanded to become a National Police Memorial Steering Committee which included the PFA and representatives from each jurisdiction and a member representing all Police Legacy organisations. It was during this committee’s deliberations that the PFA put forward proposals for the establishment of an ongoing National Police Memorial Co-ordination Committee and Criteria for Inclusion on the National Police Memorial, both of which were endorsed.

The site for the memorial in Kings Park was agreed upon in late 2004 and a design competition was launched in March 2005. The PFA was on the panel to select the winning design. Brisbane architectural firm Fairweather Proberts Architects emerged as the winner from a field of 77 entrants. Fittingly, one of the firm’s principles, Liam Proberts was the son of a Queensland Police Officer.

On 10 February 2006, Governor-General Michael Jeffrey used a sparkling gold Police Federation of Australia shovel (currently hanging in the PFA Boardroom) to turn the first sod for construction of the National Police Memorial.
The PFA engaged a firm to design the National Police Memorial logo and subsequently protected the logo by registering it as a trademark. The National Police Memorial Company was then established with every Police Association/Union President registered as a Director.

The National Police Memorial website and Honour Roll was developed by the PFA during 2006 and launched to coincide with the dedication ceremony of the National Police Memorial on National Police Remembrance Day, 29 September 2006. The PFA continues to maintain the website and Honour Roll.

The PFA is proud that it has been at the forefront of the development of the National Police Memorial from the time it was first mooted in the 1980’s right up to and beyond its successful completion.