Tragic death of paramedic Steven Tougher
10th May 2023
Mr CHRIS MINNS (Kogarah—Premier) (12:19): On 14 April 2023, 29-year-old paramedic Steven Tougher—a dad, son, husband, brother and friend—was killed on duty in the service of us all. Last week the community of the Illawarra came together to farewell Steven, a local son of the region. They were joined in a powerful show of love and loyalty by a thousand-strong community of emergency services workers including paramedics, nurses, doctors, health workers, firies, police and many more. They flocked to the streets of Wollongong to form a silent guard of honour to show their respect for Steven. They flanked Steven's grieving family and friends.
Today, on behalf of the Government, the Parliament and the people of this State I offer my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Steven Tougher. In particular I offer my condolences to his wife Maddie, mum Jill, dad Jeff and sister Jess, who are with us in Chamber this afternoon. In the face of unimaginable grief, unspeakable loss and with "hearts smashed", as Jeff has described it, the Tougher family have given. When the whole world would expect them to close ranks and withdraw into their grief, they did the opposite. They let us in. They opened up to us and shared the best of Steven with all of us. They spoke to us.
As leaders in this place and in our communities, there is a lot for us to learn from the Tougher family. In the face of a tragedy such as this, there are so many things that need to be said and so many people we need to speak to. Sometimes it is hard to know where to start, which makes Steven's family's generosity in sharing their son with us all the more remarkable. They are a family that sees Steven with clear eyes and deep pride and a family that nurtured Steven's vocation to serve his community. As Steven's dad, Jeff, said, "Steven had that uncanny ability to connect with people, to truly understand their needs and to provide care with genuine warmth and empathy." He said his superpower was his compassion. He had a strong sense of natural justice, was larger than life and filled a room with warmth. His career was solely focused on helping others and saving lives. Steven was first an assistant in nursing, then an enrolled nurse and then a registered nurse. Finally, in 2021, he graduated as a paramedic. In his short time with the ambulance service Steven served many communities—Camden, Campbelltown, Dapto, Bowral, Kiama, Warrawong and across the Illawarra.
Like the Toughers, thousands of families of emergency services workers around this State are full of pride in the work that their loved ones do on behalf of our community. But they are equally anxious about the wellbeing of their loved ones each time they leave the house. On 14 April and on the days and weeks since, thousands of emergency services workers have fronted up and filled their shifts. On behalf of the Government, the Legislative Assembly and the people of New South Wales, it is my privilege to honour Steven Tougher's sacrifice and service. I again offer my sincerest condolences to his family, his friends and his colleagues. Steven's legacy is best measured in the people he helped, the tragedies he averted and the lives he saved.
Mr MARK SPEAKMAN (Cronulla) (12:23): I join with the Premier to speak in memory of Steven Tougher. I acknowledge Steven's service to NSW Ambulance, and the pain his family, friends and colleagues are feeling. Steven was a son, a sibling, a father, a friend and a fellow paramedic to many. He had just married the love of his life in March, and his second child was just a few months away from being born. I will read some of the beautiful words spoken by his wife, Madison Tougher, at his memorial service. She said:
Knowing how many lives you've touched during your time here makes me feel so privileged and proud to tell people that I am your wife. I vow that our two beautiful children will always know what a selfless, hard-working, kind, compassionate person you were. They will forever know how their dad was a hero who helped people through their most painful and sickest times.
Words cannot express the shock that we all felt when we heard the news that a paramedic had been stabbed. No-one in the ranks of our emergency services organisations should go on a shift and be injured, or worse. But that is what happened to Steven Tougher on 14 April—just a few hours before his shift was supposed to end. It is clear from the outpouring of love for Steven that he was known for his kindness, empathy and unwavering commitment as a highly professional paramedic. During his time with NSW Ambulance, he would have helped countless people in his community of south-western Sydney. NSW Ambulance released these words following his passing:
Steven Tougher was a much loved and respected family man, friend, and paramedic, whose loss is deeply felt by all of us at NSW Ambulance, and across the broader community of New South Wales, where he dedicated himself to the service of others. NSW Ambulance have been inundated with messages of support, expressing heartfelt condolences.
I am confident that Steven's legacy will live on through each person to whom he provided care and support. His death is a reminder to us all of the risks and challenges that our first responders face every day. It is a call for us to be thankful for the selfless service of staff and volunteers. We all owe our paramedics, nurses and doctors an immense debt of gratitude. All of us here have to work together to ensure that everyone feels and is safe in their workplace, especially our health and emergency services workers, who perform an essential public service in what can be extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
On behalf of the Opposition, I offer a sincere thank you to the more than 4,600 colleagues of Steven in NSW Ambulance and the tens of thousands of staff working in the health sector across our State. To Steven's family, on behalf of the Opposition, I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences. Steven's family, friends and colleagues have been robbed of a husband, a dad, a son and a mate by a senseless act of violence. It is devastating that nothing we can do can bring Steven back. But I hope that the inevitable grief of his family, his friends and his colleagues can be tempered, even if only a little, by the sure knowledge that Steven's life was one well lived in the service and support of others.
The SPEAKER (12:27): On behalf of the crossbench and everybody in the House, I offer my sincerest condolences to the family of Steven Tougher and to his colleagues and friends. This was a great tragedy that we wish we had never seen and that we never see again.
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