Phil Donato will become the 11th state Member for Orange since the Federation when he’s officially sworn into NSW Parliament in the coming weeks.
A police officer for 22 years, Mr Donato was born in Liverpool in 1972. Together with his wife Nadia, they have five sons, twins David and James, plus Peter, Mathew and Sean.
The family moved to Orange in 2005 after Mr Donato took a transfer, in search of a better lifestyle outside of Sydney.
He said a strong sense of social justice had run through his career as police officer.
“My grandparents and parents came to Australia, they came out with their clothes and little money in their pockets,” he said.
His parents were conservative and business owners and he says taught him the value of hard work and fairness. From the age four, he could often be spotted in the family’s fruit shop. “I always had to work hard, I knew that what we had was from hard work.”
The close-knit family would not only pull together to get food on the table but would head out to the great outdoors to hunt where his grandfather, uncle and father taught Mr Donato how to use a firearm safely.
One of his first paid jobs was a waiter in an Italian restaurant, while also completing an apprenticeship as a pastry chef. A police officer who was regular visitor to the restaurant suggested he consider joining the police force.
“I liked keeping fit, and I wanted to work outdoors, it was an easy transition, using firearms safely was something I’d never had a problem with and I had a strong sense of social justice,” he said.
What followed was a two-decade career with the NSW Police Force.
Mr Donato was a general-duties officer in Macquarie Fields, Liverpool and Wollongong, before working in drug enforcement in Cabramatta in 1997.
“Cabramatta was out of control with Vietnamese crime gangs,” he said. It was as drugs, prostitution, extortion and violence were rampant in the suburb.
“You could see the devastation of what drugs do, people were dying everyday from overdosing, the community was living in fear of these crime gangs,” he said.
After six years on the street, Mr Donato become a police prosecutor, and he said fairness was what he strived for on the job.
“My role is not to find everyone guilty, I’m there to present facts to the court and represent the police,” he said. “I know that not everyone is guilty.
“You’re looking at the safety of the victim, making a judgement call, what is the risk to the community and applying evidence and the facts. You have to use your discretion, your decision has to stand up to scrutiny.”