To affect real change, we need people power
Greg Golds is an Intensive Care Paramedic using apparel to raise awareness to the ever increasing epidemic of violence towards emergency service personnel.
Kris from ONTHEGO Sports and Greg have been working together since March on prouducing t-shirts, polo shirts, road cycling kits, mountain bike jerseys, skins, jackets, racerback singlets, hoodies, caps, and beanies. Grab a cuppa, this is a great read about how Greg and his wife Kyla have worked hard to create awareness for the cause.
My name is Greg Golds and I am an Intensive Care Paramedic with NSW Ambulance, have been for longer than I haven’t, and I'm stationed in Murwillumbah on the NSW far north coast.
Our emergency service personnel are simply doing their jobs, and it is the obligation of each state government in the country to provide a safe working environment for its employees. We represent our police officers, firefighters, paramedics and ambulance officers, nurses, doctors, security officers, and clerical staff at emergency departments, volunteer rescue officers, remote area frontline nurses, and correctional officers. We are very normal people doing very extraordinary jobs. It is not asking too much to create an environment where we can be all but assured that we’re all going to come home to our families safely at the end of our shift.
As front line emergency service personnel, my wife Kyla (who is also a paramedic employed by Ambulance NSW as a casual employee, and part time with the Queensland Ambulance Service) and I were recently very distressed by the media coverage of what seems to be a rapid increase in assaults against emergency service personnel. Our desire to try and make a difference came to the fore after two violent assaults at the end of last year against paramedics whilst performing their duties as front line emergency service personnel. The first was a Queensland Paramedic back in December of last year, and within 2 days another in the Mater Hospital Accident & Emergency dept in Newcastle where a patient violently assaulted a NSW Paramedic whilst still on their stretcher.
As serving front line paramedics, my wife and I have simply had enough of the constant threats, abuse, and assaults perpetrated by a minority of people in the community against those of us in the emergency services that are only ever there by their side to help them.
After the first assault in December, my wife and I had decided to attend court and simply stand with the paramedic to show him that he was indeed not alone, but felt supported by two, like-minded colleagues.
Then the next assault in NSW occurred and my wife and I created a social media page on the Facebook platform, asking if there would be any interest out there in the communities of Australia in supporting these officers who had been assaulted whilst at work by “patients”. The link to this group can be found at our #ZeroTolerance Facebook page. This simple and humble beginning has since grown exponentially into a Facebook group that currently has just under 7600 members, from not only all points of our nation, but has garnered world wide support from countries including Canada, Switzerland, United States, England, Northern Ireland, Germany, Serbia, and New Zealand.
As a part of our campaign we have previously held public assemblies, to attend Magistrates Courts at hearings for assaulted emergency service personnel which hundreds of people have attended, proudly and passionately showing their support for our campaign. The people attending these events are not only frontline personnel from our Police forces, Fire Brigades, Ambulance Services, Correctional Services, Volunteer Rescue Associations and staff from Accident & Emergency departments, but also members of the public that feel the need to show their support.
They have each been silent assemblies and a show of solidarity between emergency services worldwide, as we have also encouraged people who are unable to attend the events personally to post a pic of themselves holding a sign or banner promoting our push for true “#zerotolerance” against the continuing assaults and violence against emergency service personnel. All of our assemblies to date have achieved greatly favourable mainstream media exposure including television, radio, and internet press.
My wife and I created a website to support our campaign, which documents some of the reported assaults against our emergency service personnel. It can be found here at our #ZeroTolerance website.
We produced small items of merchandise to show our mutual support. These were silicone wristbands sporting the logo “#ZeroTolerance”, small enamel logo lapel pins, and bumper stickers which are still available today and continue to spread the word of our campaign, which we had originally funded purely through donations from our peers, and have then distributed worldwide at the request of the members of our Facebook group. This merchandise can be found in our webshop. To date we have shipped thousands of these items both nationwide and overseas, and we are very proud to announce that they are now appearing all over the world! We have since also added lanyards, paracord bands, and pens to this repertoire.
Our end goal is to bring about a decrease in the incidence of assaults against emergency service personnel. The greatest concentration of our efforts to date have been in bringing about a change in state legislation with the introduction of mandatory minimum sentencing and truly enforceable maximum sentences for people who assault our emergency service personnel, together with being advocates for true accountability and responsibility of governmental agencies, the judiciary, and also bringing about increased safety measures for all emergency service personnel. We have bipartisan support for our campaign throughout Queensland and NSW, having met with MP’s a number of times in an attempt to garner support. This support has been evident by these MP’s promoting our campaign in QLD parliament. I have also personally been in discussions with NSW state MP Geoff Provest, who is equally as supportive of our campaign, and quite coincidentally has taken our cause to his own parliamentary summit in his role as Chair of the Law and Safety Committee, and provided submissions to a meeting held by him, at which it is his intent to introduce the subject of mandatory sentencing together with other potential changes to decrease the incidence of assaults against us. I say coincidently, as this was only announced by him after he and I had met numerous times where this precise subject matter was discussed.
Every emergency service agency in the country has its own zero tolerance policy towards assaults against emergency service personnel, but sadly these policies are failing the personnel who should be each of these agencies biggest assets, their employees. The policies are simply advertising that these assaults will not be tolerated, and are advertised on posters and the occasional brief social media pushes by ambulance services. To be frank, these campaigns do nothing other than raise the awareness of our plight to members of the public who are not the ones we need protecting from. People with a clenched fist, cocked, loaded and ready to strike, are not going to suddenly change their intent to bash a paramedic simply because they have read a poster on a wall or on the inside of an ambulance. Those that truly believe that it will effect change are fooling themselves, and I would suggest have most likely thankfully never been put in the back of a closed ambulance with nowhere to run from someone who is intent on assaulting them.
Currently, Australia has drastically different sentences in place for the crime of “assault a public officer” when the sentences from each state, for the same crime, are put side by side and compared. These varying sentences include up to 5 years imprisonment in NSW, with no current minimum enforceable sentence, to 14 years incarceration as a maximum in Queensland, and 25 years maximum in South Australia.
Western Australia has already led the way by introducing mandatory minimum sentencing for assaults on public officers, with a data-backed decrease of 33% in the incidence of such assaults since its inception back in 2008. The precedence has been set. Assaults against public officers in WA incur a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 months currently, with a maximum of 10 years prison for serious assaults. It is my understanding that even with bipartisan support of the Executive Government, legislation to introduce mandatory sentencing cannot be implemented without the judiciary’s approval. It is also very well understood that the judiciary frown upon on the idea of mandatory sentencing because in some ways, this removes judicial discretion and control over outcomes and sentencing. Well, it would appear to me that public opinion is that the judiciary have not been reaching the communities expectation for way too long when it comes to sentencing, and something needs to be done to correct this disparity.
In support of our push for mandatory sentencing for those found guilty of assaults and violence against emergency service personnel, we have also created an online petition that has attracted 3600+ signatures to date, in which we petition the Premiers of all states and territories of Australia, and the Attorney’s General of those states and territories, to impose such sentencing. The link to that petition can be found here.
To effect real change, we need people power, and that’s where ONTHEGO Sports comes in! Our message is spreading like wildfire and a big part of this continued wave of support has been via social media, and word of mouth created by people proudly wearing our apparel produced in partnership with ONTHEGO Sports, and sporting our other items of promotional kit.
One of our 7600 members of our Facebook family is a cyclist, and he came up with the idea that he’d like to spread the word about our cause by designing and having made, a cycling jersey sporting our logo. He saw a set of knicks worn by a complete stranger with the ONTHEGO Sports logo printed on it. So, after consulting with us, he did the initial groundwork and contacted Kris Milne, a salesperson from ONTHEGO Sports.
From that fateful day back in March, Kris & I have been in reasonably constant contact, firstly designing and then procuring a range of apparel that we are proud to call our own, that certainly gets people talking, and that’s what it’s all about. We now proudly produce T-shirts, polo shirts, road cycling kits, mountain bike jerseys, skins, jackets, racerback singlets, hoodies, caps, and beanies. All of which are designed to get our message out there, look outrageously cool, and most importantly get people talking. Without getting the message out there as we are, we would just be two very small voices.
But combine the power of social media with apparel made with the support of ONTHEGO Sports that our members continue to request and want to wear, we have become a voice that keeps growing and continues to get people talking about our cause. With the support of these amazing people, politicians and the people who can make real change are standing up, listening to what we have to say, and taking us very seriously.
Please find following some recommendations that have been at the heart and soul of our “#ZeroTolerance” group since its inception:
-Introduction of mandatory minimum sentencing for assaults on public officers of 3-6 months imprisonment. (This has already been shown to have been very effective since its inception in WA, backed up with readily available data. WA mainstream media supports this claim)
-Truly enforceable maximum sentencing of 10 years imprisonment for serious assaults on public officers, with the sentence to be doubled if the assault includes the use of a weapon either real or implied, as is already in place in Queensland and in Western Australia.
-Introduction of courses that instruct de-escalation techniques.
-Introduction of mandatory self-defence courses with regular re-training and refresher courses (if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it)
-Investigation into the worth of body-cams for on road paramedics to aid in the identification of people that do assault us.
-Improved communications statewide with particular attention to radio “black-spots".
-Implementation of stab proof body armour.
-Enforcement of the Responsible Service of Alcohol laws that are already in place at every licensed premises in the state. (We all know that any one of us could go down to our local, procure and drink alcoholic drinks until rolling drunk at any day of the week. These current laws are simply not being enforced. It is not our intent to be the “fun police”, and by all means, we are all for the consumption of alcohol and the freedom to do so wherever and whenever people so choose, within reason, but if we can decrease the testosterone/alcohol fuelled violence that does occur at pubs and nightclubs nationwide as a result of alcohol intoxication, then a decrease in these assaults against us as emergency service personnel will surely follow.)
-Accountability of the judiciary with regard to lenient sentencing they are routinely handing out to those found guilty of such assaults.
-Sentencing of those guilty of assaulting emergency service personnel that truly upholds the communities expectation.
As stated earlier, our Facebook group has garnered the support of thousands of emergency service personnel and members of the public whom we serve, both throughout Australia and also internationally. This support has come not only from front line personnel, but in many of the states involved, the heads of the services such as the C.E.O’s and Commissioners of ambulance services in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, and South Australia have expressed their support for this campaign completely since it began, having taken advantage of the recent apparent increase in assaults against us, to take a stand and strike whilst the iron is hot for want of a better word.
Triple Zero Tolerance
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