Policing in PNG at last recognised

Malcolm Mackellar has been waiting for his Police Overseas Service Medal for many years.
Malcolm Mackellar has been waiting for his Police Overseas Service Medal for many years. Erin Smith

MALCOLM Mackellar stood tall and proud before the Australian flag and was close to tears as the medal recognising the many years he served overseas was pinned to his chest.

Mr Mackellar was a member of the Australian Federal Police.

After the Second World War he was sent to Papua New Guinea as part of peace keeping operations.

"I was a patrol officer over there for 27 years," Mr Mackellar said.

"It became my home. I lived and worked there and returned back to Australia after independence."

Back then, Mr Mackellar said, there were no such things as badges or uniforms to prove their power of their authority.

All he had was a black leather pouch containing a photo of himself, which was signed by the government, and a printed version of the oath he'd taken.

Mr Mackellar said he returned more than 30 years ago and had waited a long time to have his service recognised.

Police officers serving overseas were formally acknowledged in 1991, with the introduction of the Police Overseas Service Medal.

But Mr Mackellar said those serving in PNG were not included.

"We were classed as being employed by the PNG Government, so they said we were not eligible for the medal," he said.

"All medals are part of the Australian Honours System, which is a matter for the Queen.

"This meant we had to get the Queen to change it to say we could get the medal."

Mr Mackellar said it was former Prime Minister Julia Gillard who wrote to the Queen asking for those who served as police in PNG to be recognised with the medal.

"This medal has taken a long time to get to me," he said.

"But I would like to thank the Queen and Ms Gillard too."

The medal was presented to Mr Mackellar by Federal Member for Maranoa Bruce Scott at a function on Monday morning.

"I was contacted and told I was receiving the medal," Mr Mackellar said.

"They said I could go to Parliament house and they would present it to me, unless there was another way I wanted it done.

"I said I would like for it to be given to me by my local member in front of my friends and family in Warwick."