CONSTABLES TONY LONG AND JASON BRYANT COMMISSIONER’S VALOUR AWARDS
My question without notice is to the Minister for Police. What is the Government’s response to the bravery shown by Constables Tony Long and Jason Bryant off Port Macquarie earlier this year?
I thank the honourable member for Port Stephens for his question. With respect to the perils of the ocean the electorate of Port Stephens is not dissimilar to that of Port Macquarie. I am sure he will understand the matters that I shall refer to in my statement. In boiling seas off Port Macquarie last May, two New South Wales police officers, Tony Long and Jason Bryant, carried out an extraordinary and heroic rescue. Their effort was superhuman, and it certainly saved six people from drowning in a severe storm in seas with an eight-metre swell.
It is worthwhile recounting this brave tale. On 24 May two yachts, caught in heavy seas 300 metres from the Port Macquarie port, called for urgent assistance. Port Macquarie Sea Rescue responded and safely returned a woman and two children to shore. But, later, a second call was made for help. Again Sea Rescue answered the call but rough seas won that battle, capsizing the rescue boat and tossing its five crew into the ocean. A second Sea Rescue craft retrieved one of the five, but it, too, succumbed to the angry sea, leaving a total of six rescue crew in the water battling for their lives.
The situation was desperate. The only remaining available craft in town was an inflatable dinghy. Without a moment’s thought for their own safety the two senior constables commandeered the dinghy and took to the sea. This is astonishing, because the trip was Senior Constable Long’s first time at sea. Just spotting the struggling crew, all in the water, in the enormous swell was almost impossible. With Senior Constable Bryant at the helm, the dinghy forced a 500-metre path through enormous waves, and located and plucked four of
the six crew from the sea, returning them to safety at the river’s entrance.
During this part of the rescue, Senior Constable Long suffered severe injuries to his chest and knees from the impact of the swell and the enormous drops off the back of the waves. He too was taken to shore with the rescued survivors while Jason Bryant turned around, despite fast worsening conditions, and headed out into the open sea to find the remaining two crew. It was 30 minutes from nightfall. Mountainous oncoming waves forced Senior Constable Bryant to abort his first lone attempt. Undeterred, and unbelievably, he turned around yet again. Miraculously, he managed single-handedly to pluck both remaining men from the water and bring them safely to shore.
Everywhere and every day police perform acts of heroism and bravery. They are indeed our unsung heroes. I am proud to be able to tell honourable members about this exceptional act of selfless courage and bravery. So impressed were the local community and the local member that representations were made to Commissioner Ryan to formally recognise the bravery of these two officers. Indeed, the people of Port Macquarie, who have had their fair share of experience in seafaring, declared they had never before seen such an act of selfless courage. I am pleased to say that both officers were presented today with the highest bravery award available from the Police Service, the Commissioner’s Valour Award.
Both men deserve our congratulations and thanks. Their actions, which were well and truly above and beyond the call of duty, remind us all that policing is a profession fraught with danger. The honour bestowed on them today will make sure we never forget their brave actions. On behalf of the Government I say thank you to Officers Bryant and Long. We thank you, we pay tribute to your bravery and we acknowledge you as heroes. We are very lucky to have such fine officers serving the community of New South Wales. On behalf of the Government - indeed, on behalf of every member of Parliament - I say thank you to those officers for their bravery.