The National Police Service Medal:
Just Recognition for Australia’s Police
By Mr Mark Burgess
Chief Executive Officer of the Police Federation of Australia
On 2 March the Australian Government announced that The Queen signed Letters Patent
instituting a new award within the Australian honours and awards system to accord
“recognition for the unique contribution and significant commitment of those persons who
have given ethical and diligent service as a sworn member of an Australian police service.”
This new award is to be known as the National Police Service Medal (NPSM).
The operable date for the new medal is 30 October 2008, as that is the date on which the
Queen initially gave in-principle approval for the award. The medal is only awarded once
and there are no clasps awarded for additional periods of service.
The NPSM will be awarded to a all sworn members of Australia’s police forces who is or
was a member on or after 30 October 2008; and in the opinion of that person’s
Commissioner, gave ethical and diligent service; and has given full-time or part-time
service as a member of 1 or more Australian police forces for a period of at least 15 years
or periods totalling at least 15 years.
A Commissioner may waive the minimum duration of service necessary to qualify for the
NPSM if a member was unable to continue serving because of death, injury or disability
which occurred as a result of their police service. But the other conditions must still be
met - service must have been “ethical and diligent”, and must include at least one day on
or after 30 October 2008.
Whilst the NPSM is not an award to recognise long service, it does recognise the unique
contribution given to the community by sworn members of Australia’s police forces. Long
and diligent service has been recognised since 1975 by the National Medal. The National
Medal and clasps will continue to be awarded to recognise eligible long and diligent
In the Government’s Press Release announcing the medal they recognised the PFA as the
key proponent of the creation of the award.
THE MOVEMENT BEHIND THE NEW AWARD
Almost since the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was replaced by the
National Medal in 1975 police associations and unions have been advocating the
reintroduction of a police specific service award.
The PFA made submissions to both the 2006 and 2008 Australasian Police Commissioners’
Conferences proposing the new medal. As a result we received the support of all
Commissioners with Queensland Commissioner Bob Atkinson being given specific
responsibility to liaise with the PFA on behalf of Commissioners.
After having also received support from the current government in the lead up to the
2007 election, we prepared a submission to the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd which he
endorsed. He then approached the Queen to have the new award established. The
concept received in-principle support from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 30 October
Since that date there has been a series of meetings between the parties to further develop
the concept, the introduction and transitional arrangements, as well as the final design of
the new award. These meetings have included the PFA representing state, territory and
federal police associations and unions; officials from the Department of Prime Minister
and Cabinet; the Office of the Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary; their
Ministerial Advisors; Police Commissioners’ Bob Atkinson (QLD) and Andrew Scipione
(NSW); Detective Sergeant Vince Pannell (AFP) and Federal Agent James Cheshire (AFP).
The meetings, and more significant out of session discussions, saw the production of many
reviews and position papers by the PFA for the consideration of both Government and the
Commissioners. It was during these meetings that it was agreed that the Prime Minister
would again go to Her Majesty to seek approval for a variation of the original in-principle
agreement. It was also agreed that the new award be the National Police Service Medal
and that it would not to be a service medal but rather that it recognise the commitment of
individuals to policing in Australia. This would also mean that the NPSM would be
awarded in addition to the National Medal to Australian police. This approval was
received and formally announced by the Government on 19 May 2010.
Two Ministers who deserve special recognition for their support during this process are
the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor and the former Special Minister of State
and Cabinet Secretary, Senator Joe Ludwig and their respective staff. As the process
bogged down in red tape and Honours protocols during this period, these two Ministers
ensured that negotiations were maintained and that a final outcome acceptable to all
parties was achieved. All police officers are indebted to their efforts and persistence.
THE DESIGN AND ORDER OF WEAR
During this process I was contacted by Inspector Rick Steinborn of the New South Wales
Police Force who had, in his own time and at his own expense, designed a proposed medal
for our consideration. As discussion with the various interested parties continued, and
various changes were made, Inspector Steinborn incorporated those changes at every
Rick’s design has now been formally endorsed by the Queen as the NPSM’s design. It will
be finished in cupro-nickel. The St Edward's Crown, representing the Sovereign whom all
Australian police officers ultimately serve, is located on the suspender bar. The front
(obverse) of the medal features the Federation Star located inside an unbroken circular
chequered band, known as ‘Sillitoe Tartan’. The Federation Star represents the national
scope of the medal, while the Sillitoe Tartan is the internationally recognised symbol of
policing. The unbroken band surrounds the star, signifying the unity and cooperation
between each of the individual state, federal and territory police forces who together
protect the entire Commonwealth.
The back (reverse) of the medal has two sprays of golden wattle, the national floral
symbol, located immediately below a raised horizontal panel on which the recipient's
details can be engraved. The words 'FOR SERVICE AS AN AUSTRALIAN POLICE OFFICER'
appear in capital letters around the inside of the outer rim.
The ribbon, like the medal device, was also further developed as a result of discussions
between the parties after the in-principle approval was received. The final ribbon design
accepted is that developed by Federal Agent James Cheshire of the AFP. The medal ribbon
draws inspiration from police awards under both the Imperial and Australian awards
The ribbon has a central panel of three stripes of dark blue, gold and dark blue. The
central panel is flanked by white panels, each bisected by a thin red stripe. Blue and gold
are Australia's heraldic colours, commonly used in the ribbons of Australian medals, while
the blue and white are colours traditionally associated with police and police awards. The
thin red stripes represent the ever-present hazards experienced in service as an Australian
Both Inspector Steinborn and Federal Agent Cheshire will be formally recognised as the
Medal and Ribbon designers and should be congratulated for their efforts.
The NPSM is an official award in the Australian honours and awards system and as such is
worn on the left breast when in uniform or civilian attire. In the order of wear, the NPSM
is positioned before all long service awards and immediately after the Civilian Service
Medal 1939-1945. This is in recognition that the award is not a long service award and is
made only to sworn police officers who have provided ethical and diligent service for the
entirety of their police career.
The National Police Service Medal is a tangible acknowledgement by the Australian
Government of the unique role that police officers play in the preservation of peace, the
protection of life and property and the maintenance of law and order throughout
The new medal demonstrates community support for the work done by the 55,000 police
members who place their own safety at risk to protect the quality of life, security and
freedom of all Australians.
The PFA will continue to work with Government and the Opposition parties in relation to
just and equitable recognition for Australian police. We will continue to advocate for the
introduction of meritorious service awards, an equivalent to the defence conspicuous
service awards, for the establishment of an Honours and Awards Tribunal to be a standing
advisory and assessment group in relation to police and emergency services awards, and
to have National Police Remembrance Day declared a national day of significance.
The creation of the National Police Service Medal comes about after many years of hard
work by a great number of people, but I think that it is particularly noteworthy that the
medal was achieved principally through the efforts of the PFA, the ‘National Voice of
Policing’ representing 55,000 Australian Police Officers, and was developed and designed
by operational police officers from different jurisdictions working together for a common
purpose - a principle which is at the very heart of policing in Australia today.
For further details on the NPSM go to the PFA web site www.pfa.org.au