Mr RAY WILLIAMS: The tragedy of the Parramatta shooting last October saddened and shocked the nation. A radicalised 15-year-old boy took the life of Curtis Cheng. The event was shocking, as all tragedies are, but this defied common logic and reminded us all of the extremely challenging times we live in. We acknowledge and respect the job that all police do—from Commissioner Andrew Scipione and my local area commander, Superintendent Rob Critchlow, to every serving member of the NSW Police Force. Indeed, from time to time I have likened their job to that of soldiers walking onto the battlefield because they do not know what challenges will face them on a daily basis—and sometimes they do not come home.
Curtis was an employee of the NSW Police Force. He was shot because a boy was targeting police at their building in Parramatta. Curtis Cheng was not a police officer. Indeed, he did not work in a job that we would associate with any significant risks. He was an accountant and had spent 17 years working in the finance department of the NSW Police Force. That makes this action even more deplorable. As I have said, there are certain risks associated with working as a frontline officer; one can reasonably expect to find oneself in dangerous situations. I commend our police officers for their work in protecting the community.
Curtis was just like the rest of us. He was 58 years old and had an office job. He was a father of two and, by all reports, was a humble, well-liked individual who was simply on his way home from work. One of the things about this tragedy that resonated with the wider community was the sense that he was just like anyone else; the sense that it could have happened to anyone in Parramatta that day. This is compounded by the fact that the attacker was 15 years of age. Teenagers go to school and play up. They give their parents headaches—I know that only too well, having raised two children—but they do not shoot people. It is hard for any rational human being to make sense of it all. Sadly, these are the extremely challenging times we now live in. Only this week this Chamber passed legislation to give police the opportunity to detain and question individuals as young as 14 years of age. It is alarming to think our police officers need those powers, but it reinforces what I have said in relation to the shooting of Curtis Cheng.
Following the tragedy I wrote to my local area commanders. I wanted to convey to them my gratitude and that of the community for the thankless and often dangerous work they do. I expressed my concern for the seemingly unprecedented challenges they now face in keeping our community safe. They are dedicated men and women who work day and night to ensure that we are all safe and secure. No-one becomes a police officer to get rich. They join up because they want to serve and are willing to put their life on the line to save others. So as we approach nearly a year since the sad shooting at Parramatta, let us spare a thought for Curtis Cheng and his family, and also for the brave men and women of the NSW Police Force—some of whom work in this building and keep us safe every day. Vale, Curtis Cheng.