Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 13 October 2022) . . Page.. 3122 ..
members who are experiencing their worst day. They make sure that our community is safe and cared for and clean up the mess when things go badly.
Today I want to share the story of a first responder and his emotional journey, to start prompting community discussion on how we can help those who serve our communities faithfully and at a great personal price. In Richard’s own words:
Over the last 20 years or so I have worked tirelessly, to my detriment, helping the people of Canberra and NSW. I started in volunteer emergency service work before doing so professionally. I was a police officer here in the Territory before choosing to fulfill a lifelong ambition of being an ambulance officer. I started at the very bottom and worked my way up to the highest standard of clinical care offered. I have been awarded four medals, 1 citation, countless commendations and certificates of appreciation.
I suffer from mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, depression, severe anxiety, and apparently a borderline personality disorder (whatever that is). I will not go into the causations of my PTSD. I do not intend to vicariously traumatise others. In 2015 I took an overdose of my prescription medication.
This was after significant events in my ambulance career that filled my glass up and it overflowed. I sought help and spent weeks in a private hospital whilst the ACT Ambulance response was to pay someone overtime to go around the stations and cancel my access to the safes in case I came by to steal drugs to do it again. I crawled my way back up and started again, but physical injury at work in 2016 and a very long recovery then led to a significant relapse of the PTSD.
PTSD changed me as a person. I truly hate who I am now. I was once a very good intensive care paramedic. Very few have ever disputed that. Now I am no one. I have spent years now in other public service jobs. Some not successful, some very successful.
PTSD cost me my career. PTSD cost me any hope of being any kind of successful person. Now PTSD will be costing me my house and every ounce of self-respect I ever had. I can’t even talk to my old colleagues from the police, or ambulance. I am too embarrassed about where I now am.
I am now back in a sad place. My GP this morning said “I just don’t know what to do.” My only response: “Me neither.” Please, I urge you, start talking about these issues. After all, no one has been talking or listening to me.
So to Richard: I promise to do what you quite reasonably asked of me as a representative of the Canberra community, who ask responsible questions about this topic and seek meaningful answers. I will also continue to tell your story and those of other first responders who have suffered the mental cost of the work that we as a government have asked them to do. To this end, I will continue with more speeches in the Assembly on this important topic.
Children and young people—work experience personal account
MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (6.33): As the youngest member of this Assembly, one of the parts of this job I am most proud of is being able to provide work experience