The University of Wollongong grounds were a sea of blue on Monday, as emergency service workers came together to celebrate the life of their colleague Steven Tougher.
Dozens of marked vehicles filled the campus car parks and hundreds of uniformed workers through the grounds towards the hall where his service was held, some stopping to hug or shake hands on the way.
There were paramedics, who made up the biggest contingent, as well as police, nurses and representatives from emergency organisations across the country.
Read more: Wollongong stops to remember Steven Tougher
NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan told Steven's family there were many people who attended to acknowledge his contribution to the state.
"You might be interested to know more than 200 staff from around NSW volunteered to come and cover shifts so his closer colleagues and friends could attend today," he said.
"There are so many senior leaders here from across Australia and New Zealand. Every single state and territory ambulance service is represented here today. Every commissioner, chief officer and chief executive is represented."
Maddie, Jill, Jeff and Jess, there's so many people who have come here to pay their respects today, to support you as a family- Dominic Morgan
Commissioner Morgan also paid tribute to those who were on the scene when Steven was allegedly stabbed while on a meal break outside Campbelltown McDonald's.
"His incredible colleagues came together so heroically - and hero is the right word - in the face of true mortal danger and incomprehensible pressure to undertake a range of clinical interventions to try and work to save Steve's life," he said.
He also acknowledged the young doctor and his paramedic colleagues who did "everything in their power to save Steve's life, including procedures that would normally only be done in an operating theatre".
Premier Chris Minns spoke about the bravery of paramedics who turned up to work the day Steven was killed.
"On the morning of April 14, 1420 paramedics representing all parts of NSW put on their uniforms, kissed their wife, husband, or partner or wife and went to work," he said.
"They went to work in the knowledge that one of their number had been led that very morning, just as they put on face masks and went to work in the pandemic, not knowing what the long-term effects of COVID would be on their personal health."
"We are constantly asking young men and women to put themselves in harm's way to keep the safe, to rescue us, to save our lives, to put themselves second and the public first."
"So to all emergency service workers in NSW, particularly our paramedics, we owe you a great debt of gratitude."
Funeral attendees were asked to consider donations to NSW Ambulance. For details go to ambulance.nsw.gov.au
While Steven Tougher had only been a paramedic for a short time before he died in the line of duty, he has been awarded a posthumous medal in recognition of the service he would have completed.
At Monday's celebration of life service, NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan described Steven as a "young man of limitless potential, taken too soon".
"Every single one of his colleagues has spoken so positively about his larger-than-life personality, his sense of humour, but also a strong sense of natural justice," he said.
"Last Monday, I wrote to the Governor General of Australia requesting him to consider Steven's eligibility for the award of the National Medal for Service.
"The national medal is awarded to members of uniformed emergency service organisations who have completed 15 years of diligence service when there is a risk to life. The Governor General has confirmed recognition of the service Steven would have completed, had he not been struck down in the course of his duties."
Dr Morgan handed Steven's family the medal on behalf of the Governor General, along with other medals from the NSW Ambulance Service.
"This was a life that was given to us for such a short time," Dr Morgan said.
Later in the service, friend and colleague Kate Hannigan, a NSW Paramedic Intern from Steven's graduate class in 2022, gave a glimpse into the character he was in his work and training..
"We remember Stephen as an extremely passionate, funny, supportive, caring individual," she said.
She described how he and his classmates were bonded by the austere living conditions at the free accommodation for paramedic students in Roselle and by his antics during class.
"Steve would demonstrate his pattern for paramedicine, among other topics, regularly getting into arguments with his classmates, which really just made us respect him a whole lot more than what he obviously loved," Ms Hannigan said.
"We can only hope to continue our lives and careers with the same passion that Steve demonstrated to us."
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