2023 Public Advocate Awards for Outstanding Police Service to People with Disability

L to R: Dr. Colleen Pierce, ITP Wayne Abblitt, ITP Sandy Moloney, ITP Tracey Ryan, ITP Peter Findlay and Commander Jo Stafford

From left: Dr Colleen Pierce, ITP Wayne Abblitt, ITP Sandy Moloney, ITP Tracey Ryan, ITP Peter Findlay and Commander Jo Stafford

The Public Advocate Awards for Outstanding Police Service 2023 were recently held at the Victoria Police Centre on 8 December 2023.

The awards commend police members and stations across the state for their outstanding service to Victorians with disability. 

The Public Advocate, Dr Colleen Pearce, described the awards as a "highlight" of her year,

"These events tell a story about the meaningful changes being made to ensure equal treatment before the law for all," she said.

"The awards highlight the vital stories of Victorians with disabilities and those who intersect with the criminal justice system."

"In every nomination received, there are stories of passionate and engaged individuals committed to improving outcomes for people with disabilities. It is heartening to learn about the proactive work done by the police to minimise the negative impact of the justice system on those represented by OPA."

Ben Bodna Award

The 2023 Ben Bodna Award for Exceptional Leadership in Support of People with Disabilities went to Detective Senior Constables Travis Kinghorn, Rhiannon Woolfe, and Samantha Perez of Fawkner SOCIT for their outstanding efforts in supporting a victim of ongoing assault and mistreatment from disability support workers,

Detective Senior Constable Kinghorn provided support and reassurance to the victim and her family by utilising a victim-centric response.

Detective Senior Constable Perez used her experience as a qualified speech pathologist to advocate for the victim’s statement to be taken using Augmentative and Alternative Communication methods.

Detective Senior Constable Woolfe was chosen as the prescribed person to take the victim’s statement, given her experience as an investigator and high emotional intelligence.

This one case resulted in significant sector improvements, including case law being was also established allowing covert installation of CCTV in residential care facilities and a referral to the Disability Royal Commission for review.

Outstanding Police Service to People with Disability

Sergeant Mark Osborne

Sergeant Mark Osborne was awarded the Public Advocate Award for Outstanding Police Service to People with Disability for his ongoing engagement and commitment to improving the outcomes for a community member with autism who had severe behavioural issues and had regular involvement with police.

Sergeant Osborne spoke to support staff at the young person’s residential facility and learned more about their condition and triggers in order to better understand how to properly support them. He took the time to get to know the young person better and identified how intelligent and passionate about sport they were.

Sergeant Osborne had regular catch-ups with the young person and created a job for them helping out at the police station. He continues to visit the young person in his own time.

Since Sergeant Osborne started visiting the young person, police have not been called to their address. According to the coordinator of the residential unit, Sergeant Osborne has played a significant role in helping the young person and their behaviour.

Sergeant Kate Lockyer

Sergeant Kate Lockyer of Whittlesea Police Station was awarded the Public Advocate Award for Outstanding Police Service to People with Disability for her work entering the 2021 and 2022 Chief Commissioner’s Disability Challenge.

She organised community events at Whittlesea Showgrounds where people from the disability community, together with police set new Australian records for the longest paper chain, and longest human chain. These events enhanced the relationship between the community and police with disability services, schools, childcare, and advocate services all involved.

Sergeant Lockyer also developed an innovative disability toolkit for police to improve their capability when interacting with people with disability. 

Independent Third Person Program Awards

Mernda Station and Benella SOCIT were awarded for their use of the Independent Third Persons program to support people with disability through police processes.

Mernda Police Station

The Metropolitan Police Station award went to Mernda Police Station.

The nomination stated:

Mernda maintains a high standard of professionalism at all times when dealing with clients with a disability. They are courteous and considerate of the person with the cognitive disability, are punctual and mindful of the individual needs, whether as an alleged offender or victim. This observation is based on three years of attending numerous interviews with the uniform and SOCIT as an ITP. This is, I believe, reflective of the good management and leadership at the station. This police station stands out for leading the way in best practice.

Benella SOCIT

The Regional Police Station award went to Benella SOCIT. 

The nomination stated that Benalla staff treat every person with the utmost respect and kindness whether they are alleged offenders, victims, or witnesses. 

2023 Certificates of Commendation for police work with Victorians with disability

  • Superintendent Alison Boyes
    • For setting up the Access and Inclusion Committee that has ensured committee activities, events and practice are guided by those with lived experience with disability.
  • Acting Senior Sergeant Anita Harraway
    • For her support and engagement with a vision impaired member of the community to reduce safety concerns that were impacting her ability to freely and comfortably get around.
  • Sergeant Brian Patterson
    • For his involvement and engagement with RDAV (Riding Develops Abilities Victoria) which supports people with disability to access equine therapy and activities.
  • Leading Senior Constable Rachael Kelly
    • For her support of special Olympics training camps for athletes with disability. For 6 years, Rachael has been an active member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run committee which supports the Special Olympics and those living with intellectual disabilities. She is involved in breaking down misconceptions and fears that people with intellectual disability can have concerning authority figures, building trust and confidence across the disability sector.
  • Leading Senior Constable Warren Briggs
    • For his commitment and engagement to bridge the gap between the disability community and police including local sport events, community events and school visits.
  • Protective Services Officer Nyssa Jewell
    • For her work engaging with and building connection to a community member and his family to ensure he felt safe and understood when interacting with police and PSOs in the community.
  • Digital Education Branch – People Development Command
    • For their complete overhaul of the e-learn platform to ensure it is independently accessible to employees who are blind or vision impaired.
  • Transit North Tasking and Coordination Unit
    • For their dedication and engagement initiatives to improve public transport outcomes for people with disability and deliver a police service that is accessibly inclusive and responsive.
  • Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Unit, Human Resources Command
    • For their work to broaden the Victoria Police Manual to ensure employees with disability and employees who are carers have equal access to leave.
  • Senior Constable Rebecca Mayoll of Moorabbin Police Station
    • For her calm and patient support of a client with complex mental health needs and for ensuring the client felt safe and reassured to give their statement without judgement.
  • First Constable James Randall of Craigieburn Police Station<
    • For his excellent practice when interviewing a young man with Autism and ADHD and putting him at ease throughout the process.
  • Morwell Police Station
    • For treating all clients with respect and dignity and creating a safe space for them in an otherwise unsettling environment
  • Narre Warren Police station
    • For their patience, support and engagement with clients in need.
  • Swan Hill Police station
    • For their respectful and understanding engagement with clients with disability and minimising stress for the interviewees. ;


Click here to see past recipients 


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