ACT News

Canberra sergeant Rod Anderson honoured for work in disasters and on the road

While the world watched in horror as the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 aircraft disaster unfolded in the Ukraine last year, Canberra police officer Rod Anderson was on the scene making sure the remains of the victims of the tragedy made it back home.

From bushfires to some of the ACT's worst car accidents, station sergeant Anderson has seen a lot more than most in his more than 25 years with ACT Policing.

Five recipients of the ACT Community Protection Medal, from left, Toby Keene, ACT Ambulance Service, Pauline Wassall, ...
Five recipients of the ACT Community Protection Medal, from left, Toby Keene, ACT Ambulance Service, Pauline Wassall, ACT Rural Fire Service, Andrew Cahill, ACT Fire and Rescue, Tony Graham, ACT State Emergency Service and Station Sergeant Rodney Anderson, ACT Policing.  Photo: Graham Tidy

But at the end of the day, Gungahlin Police Station's new officer in charge just wants to keep the community safe and secure.

Sergeant Anderson was one of five emergency services workers awarded the ACT Community Protection Medal on Tuesday.

Station Sergeant Rodney Anderson was one of five recipients of the ACT Community Protection Medal. He is pictured with ...
Station Sergeant Rodney Anderson was one of five recipients of the ACT Community Protection Medal. He is pictured with his wife, Donna and children, Ashlea, 20 and Will, 17.  Photo: Graham Tidy

He was recognised for more than 25 years with ACT Policing, including expertise in road safety and disaster victim identification. 

The latter has taken him across Australia and around the world.

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"We have a fairly well-tried and tested process of what we do when we're deployed in major disasters, or any sort of incident. It's important we put those processes in place and try not to let the size of the situation overwhelm us," he said.

"If the tables were turned, if it was my loved one in that sort of situation, I'd want to know that the government and our police and other agencies were doing as much as they could to preserve the dignity of the victim.

"Being away from home complicates it but it just makes you more determined to do the job right, to do it well, and make sure that we bring as many victims home as we can."

One of Sergeant Anderson's proudest achievements on Australian soil has been tackling road fatalities and promoting safer driving across the territory.

He wrapped up his role with Traffic Operations about two months ago but said the work wasn't over. 

"We can't relax. We need to keep a foot on the accelerator so people continue to change," he said.

"We have drivers who are just getting their licence now and may not have heard some of the messages, who may not have been influenced by road trauma, so we need to remind them just what impact that can have on the community.

"All my kids are on the road driving. I want the roads to be safe."

Children have been central to some of the toughest jobs - but also some of the most rewarding.

"When children are involved, or if it relates in some way to your family unit, that's challenging. Particularly MH17, you think of your own mortality [and] just how fragile life is and you think about your own family and sometimes that's hard," he said.

"It could be a very small interaction, a one-off chance meeting with a juvenile who then turns their life around - and we don't necessarily know about it - that has the greatest impact."

Other medal recipients were ACT Ambulance Service intensive care paramedic Toby Keene; ACT Fire and Rescue member Andrew Cahill; ACT Rural Fire Service member and Guises Creek Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade member Pauline Wassall; and founding ACT State Emergency Service chief officer Tony Graham.