Water police honoured for bushfire bravery

Two police who fought back flames threatening Mallacoota’s CFA station as citizens sheltered inside during the Black Summer bushfires have been honoured for their bravery.

Graham Shoobert and Glenn Powell – Leading Senior Constables with the Gippsland Water Police Squad – will receive Victoria Police’s Medal for Courage at a special ceremony on 29 November.

Leading Senior Constable Shoobert is also among six water police awarded the Medal for Merit for their work evacuating residents and tourists from Eden in NSW.

Mallacoota’s CFA building – with around 10 civilians including children taking refuge inside – came under direct fire attack on New Year’s Eve 2019.

Leading Senior Constables Shoobert and Powell, who earlier helped people trapped in Mallacoota flee to the beach and relief centre, used CFA firefighting equipment at the station and from a nearby tanker to suppress the flames and heat. They also defended an adjoining police residence and nearby SES and surf lifesaving bases.

Their award recognises courage displayed in dangerous and volatile operational circumstances to ensure the safety of civilians as well as saving valuable property from being destroyed. It’s likely members of the public would have been significantly injured or killed if not for their actions. Leading Senior Constable Angus Webb, stationed at Mallacoota, was also involved in the effort.

The Medal for Merit has been awarded to six members of the Water Police Squad for their work evacuating residents and tourists from Eden using the squad’s two largest vessels, VP01 and VP09. They were also involved in the transfer of emergency services and defence force personnel, water, food and medical supplies.

Police recognised are Leading Senior Constables Michael Newstead, Glenn Mackenzie, Mark Hurwood, Scott Conolan and Dean Leicester along with Leading Senior Constable Shoobert.

Eden had come under ember attack on 5 January 2020 when a firefront hit the town with southwesterly winds of up to 35 knots. Water police evacuated about 10 people and a dog from a naval munitions wharf in Twofold Bay.

The Medal for Merit cites the water police members’ exemplary service and extraordinary support to the communities of Mallacoota and Eden during the bushfires.

Deputy Commissioner Public Safety and Security Ross Guenther, Assistant Commissioner Transit and Public Safety Command Dean McWhirter and Superintendent Wayne Newman will be among senior police attending the award ceremony, to be held at the Gippsland Water Police Squad’s Paynesville headquarters.

Quotes attributable to Ross Guenther, Deputy Commissioner Public Safety and Security:

“There is no higher act than the preservation of life.

“The outcome at Mallacoota could have been very different if not for the courage displayed by Leading Senior Constables Graham Shoobert and Glenn Powell that day.

“We salute their extraordinary efforts and the commitment of all seven water police members being honoured with these awards.

“In a moment of crisis their commitment to protecting the community in the face of adversity came to the fore.

“We are so proud to call them part of Victoria Police.”

Quotes attributable to Leading Senior Constable Glenn Powell, Water Police Squad:

“I am proud of our efforts and what we did.

“The most important thing is we were able to keep everyone safe. We lost a lot of houses which was devastating but at the end of the day everyone we were there looking after was safe and well which is the main thing for me.”

Quotes attributable to Leading Senior Constable Graham Shoobert, Water Police Squad:

“I am humbled I have been nominated.

“I have been in the job for over 40 years and never had recognition like this before.

“We did what we had to do. It took a team effort to be able to do the job.”

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