UPDATE: Paul McCuskey, the man who was given a bravery award for his work in the black Saturday bushfires, has been stripped of his award after it was revealed he was in jail for beating his wife.
The Royal Humane Society voted unanimously to strip the Country Fire Authority volunteer Mr McCuskey of his medal on the back of a petition signed by 18,000 people and a call for action from Governor General Quentin Bryce.
Mamamia previously reported:
He hit his wife in the head, dragged her from a car and kicked her pregnant stomach while she screamed: “Stop it Paul, the baby!” She later miscarried. He kicked her in the head and mopped blood from the floor but not from her face. He kicked so hard she was left permanently blinded in the left eye.
But he also saved the life of a 73-year-old woman and her pets during the Black Saturday fires.
So should he keep the bravery award he received for his efforts?
The Governor General doesn’t think so.
Quentin Bryce has written to the Royal Humane Society asking them to review their decision to give Paul Francis McCuskey an award for bravery. Mr McCuskey was among a group of firefighters who braved treacherous, life threatening conditions and used handsaws to clear burning trees in an effort to save the woman during the 2009 fires.
He was in jail serving a minimum three years when he received the honour this year.
The Governor General’s letter to the society has prompted a second review. She wrote:
“It would be remiss of me not to communicate to you my longstanding and fervent belief that violence against women should not be tolerated or condoned whenever it occurs, not least in a situation that is an affront to the very principle for which the Humane Society stands,” she wrote.
“If society is to banish violence against women, I suggest zero tolerance is the only way forward.”
When McCuskey’s award was first questioned, the Royal Humane Society president said the organisation was not aware of his criminal history. In March, a review committee decided the award should stand.
A society spokesperson says: “The main criterion of the society is to bestow bravery awards on those who risk their lives to save the lives of others. It has never been the role of the Society to judge award nominees on their probity either prior to or after their act of bravery.”
When Mr McCuskey’s former wife found out about the award she said it was a “slap in the face”.
“When I found out, my heart was in my toes and my world fell apart,” she said.
“He beat me senseless, left me on the ground in my blood, took my mobile phone and house phone so I couldn’t call for help and dragged me around the home – yeah, that’s real brave.
“I’ve been left with one eye and he gets a bravery award.”
If anyone wants to show their support, here’s how you can do it. Brisbane woman Melinda Liszewski has started a petition at change.org calling for the Royal Humane Society to ‘Stop defending a man convicted of vicious domestic violence and strip him of the Bravery Award’. You can sign that petition here.
Do you think a man can be considered brave if he beats his wife? Should an award for bravery ever be given to a person who is guilty of acts of violent crime?