Six Canberrans from across policing, ambulance, firefighting and emergency service volunteering have been recognised for their dedication to protecting the Territory and those who call it home.
The 2023 Community Protection Medals were given to those nominated by their colleagues for their years of commitment to their agencies, be it in training, recruiting, investigations, mentoring, emergency operations or planning.
ACT Policing Major Collisions Team detective leading senior constable Ashley Laidler was one of the recipients.
While he’s been decorated a number of times throughout his career, both for long service and individual acts, he said this medal was particularly important.
“Just the fact that my peers put in the effort to nominate me and think that I was worthy of the award was very overwhelming,” Det Leading Snr Const Laidler said.
“This one particularly though is for the 23 years I’ve given to ACT Policing and therefore that recognition is immense.”
Det Leading Snr Const Laidler has spent time in Tuggeranong general duties, criminal investigations, rural patrol, the sexual assault and child abuse team, professional standards, and has spent the last six years as part of the Major Collision Team.
He said while it was an incredibly tough job, he was always proud of the professionalism of his team and how they would help support those impacted by crashes on our roads.
“We meet people in probably the worst moments of their lives, and we try to bring them some sort of answers as to why they’ve lost a loved one or loved ones, and if someone needs to be held accountable we also do that for them,” Det Leading Snr Const Laidler said.
“It’s restoring some sort of normality in ultimate tragedy.”
One crash in particular has stayed with Det Leading Snr Const Laidler – the death of four-year-old Blake Corney, who was killed when a truck crashed into the back of his parent’s car on the Monaro Highway in 2018.
“There was a lot of work that went on post that, both by the child’s parents and by ACT Policing, and we continue to do it,” he said.
“And the fact that we were able to bring change to road safety measures, that’s a huge reward for the work we do.”
Safety reforms have been recommended to the ACT Government to stop another death like Blake’s from happening again.
Another medal recipient was ACT State Emergency Services volunteer Kym Schmid, who has spent almost 25 years with the agency.
Her “day job” is as a learning and development specialist with the Woden Community Service, but volunteering holds a special place in her heart.
“I’m a lifer, I’ll be with the SES for as long as I can be,” Ms Schmid said.
“It warms your heart more, I think, being a volunteer.”
She viewed the medal as the “icing on top of the cake”, but ultimately felt helping the community was the real reward for her volunteering.
Her favourite part was connecting with those she was assisting, and she said she was always blown away by how the community would then turn around and help her in return.
“If we go to a storm job or a tree on someone’s roof, they always offer us a cup of tea or food even. I was on call once at a restaurant and they came out with wontons and sauce for us,” Ms Schmid said.
“[During the 2003 bushfires people were] giving me drinks, icy poles from the servo when the power went out, and just talking to me, it was a real honour to be there and listen to their stories as well.
“It makes you feel like you’re part of the community, and to me that’s really important.”
ACT Ambulance Service’s Susith Adikari, ACT Fire and Rescue Commander Bruce Chancellor, ACT Rural Fire Service’s Ian Harding and ACT Emergency Services Agency’s Richelle Larkins were the other recipients of the 2023 ACT Community Protection Medals.
Police and Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said it was all about recognising their “remarkable contribution” and “unwavering service” to the community.
“Emergency service personnel exemplify the very best of what our community has to offer. They help protect community and do it so selflessly,” he said.
“Their expertise, drive and can-do attitude helps make the territory a better place.”