Chairman Bill Hewett began by referring to the work of Dr John Birrell, Police Surgeon from 1957 to 1977, who was a tireless and effective campaigner for improved road safety. Compulsory seat belts and breathalyser testing with a .05 limit were two of his major achievements.
In 2017-2018, RCWE established the Dr John Birrell Road Safety Practitioner of the Year Award to recognise a serving Police Officer selected by colleagues for having made a significant contribution to the improvement of road safety in the WD2 Police Area, which encompasses Warrnambool, Moyne, Corangamite, Glenelg and Southern Grampians Local Government areas.
To quote Bill, “It’s the first responders, the police and the emergency services, that face this problem head on day after day. With the Dr. John Birrell Award, we are recognising the good work the Police do tirelessly to educate drivers and enforce safety.”
Bill added the encouragement to us all; “But remember we are not passengers in the fight for road safety; everybody must help by being more sensible and careful on our roads.”
The 2024 winner was then announced as Leading Senior Constable Ian McNiven who is based at Koroit Police Station.
Sgt Pat Day, Officer in Charge at Koroit, said that it was a four member station. LSC McNiven is a “general duties member” which means he undertakes all kinds of Police work from neighbourhood disputes to fatal road accidents. His task is a very busy one, but he always finds time for road safety issues. He illustrated the work done by talking about the speed reduction at a very dangerous intersection at Illowa.
LSC McNiven, Sgt Day, Rtn Bill
In accepting the award, LSC McNiven said that he had only found out the previous day and was somewhat taken aback that he had been chosen. He emphasised that it was not just him but a combined effort involving Officers at Port Fairy, Macarthur, and especially Warrnambool which is a 24 hour station – he is looking at it as recognition of all. He suggested that there are too many drivers on the road who shouldn’t be, and with Sgt Day, outlined the five major targets:- speed, distraction (especially phones), alcohol & drugs, those who still fail to wear seat belts, and high risk takers.
In modern vehicles there are so many safety features that some drivers take the attitude that the car will look after them.
In response to a question, there was an interesting discussion about the distraction value of the many knobs, switches, lights, and sounds associated with the modern dash board or control panel.
Both Officers thanked RCWE for their hospitality.
The award is $2,500 to be directed to the charity of the awardee’s choice, which in this case was the Blue Ribbon Foundation, described as follows on their website:-
The Victoria Police Blue Ribbon Foundation perpetuates the memory of members of the Victoria Police who have died in the line of duty through the support of worthwhile community projects within Victoria. We aim to encourage the public of Victoria to remember the sacrifice of officers who have fallen in the line of duty and to show all serving members of Victoria Police that their work and commitment are valued by a caring community.
LSC McNiven directed his $30 to the Leila Rose Foundation.