Policeman’s humanity recognised

David SalvaireSound Telegraph
Australian Police Medal recipient Ross Adam with his rescue dog Bella
Camera IconAustralian Police Medal recipient Ross Adam with his rescue dog Bella

When Port Kennedy policeman Sergeant Ross Adam was confronted with the horrors of the Yarloop bush fire last year, he loaded up on supplies and headed into town.

The 57-year-old was on holiday in Albany when news broke of the disaster unfolding in the area where he was serving as officer-in-charge at the Yarloop Police Station.

With a caravan full of food, fuel and water, he set up on an oval and for a week offered support to those who had stayed to battle the blaze.

“I wanted to be the person on the ground to let them talk about what they’d just been through,” he said.

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“I knew they would need support and someone to explain to them why the cavalry weren’t coming until the area was declared safe.

“Being involved in the emergency management process I knew there was a heavy reliance on the evacuation centres so the people who choose to stay and fight are left to their own devices.

“I remember having a tear in my eye as I was driving through there because it was really horrific. We were giving out free hugs and because I burnt out after the first 48 hours, people started giving me hugs back. The sense of community was overwhelming.”

Those actions and many more led to Sgt Adam being awarded the prestigious Australian Police Medal in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday honours list.

His exemplary service to WA police has been underpinned by a strong drive to serve the community he finds himself in.

After joining the force in January 1980, Sgt Adam and his family have been stationed at regional and metropolitan districts across WA.

But in 2015 the family gained another member when a sick and injured dog, Bella, was abandoned outside the Yarloop Police Station.

Faced with veterinary bills of more than $13,000 Sgt Adam started a Facebook page to fundraise for Bella’s treatment which now has more than 3500 followers.

Through that support network, Sgt Adam and Bella found then-seven-year-old Bonnie who had been battling brain cancer.

From a shared interest in second chances, Bella’s Walk for Bonnie was born.

Sgt Adam and Bella embarked on a 123km journey from Yarloop to Ronald McDonald House in Subiaco.

The trip raised over $10,000 to upgrade Bonnie’s living arrangements to give her the best chance of surviving.

“I learnt about how they had been displaced and I was really touched by her story,” Sgt Adam said.

“We both bit off more than we could chew; I ended up having to carry Bella for the last kilometre on the first day. After that we took more rest breaks.”

Reflecting on 36 years as a policeman, Sgt Adam said some of the hardest times were attending serious incidents and dealing with high-risk firearm situations.

“All of those things tend to hang in your mind a bit and there are a lot of police officers that suffer from PTSD as a result,” he said.

“But there’s also a lot of support from the community. Being involved in community groups and youth groups was a good way to give kids good police role models.

Sgt Adam is waiting for his next policing placement but admits he may hang up the badge in the near future.

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