I rise to lend my support to the condolence motion before the house. From the
outset I also express my condolences to the families who have lost loved ones —
210 people confirmed dead so far; 210 people who were and will continue to be
Hundreds of people have been injured, and many remain seriously
injured in the Alfred hospital. I wish them a very speedy recovery.
It has been just over two weeks since the start of the 7
February bushfires, and it has been two weeks, so far, of a very intensive
rollercoaster. For many, the rollercoaster has caused and is still causing very
deep, cavernous feelings which will continue for a very long time. The shock,
the horror, the fear, the sobbing, the anxiety, the loss of a life that once was
— how can we have words for this terrible disaster? It is all too near, and it
is all too raw. Grief that is now being experienced will be a whole new emotion
for some; it will be uncharted mental and physical territory. For others the
grief and loss will not be new, but it will be experienced under different
circumstances and it will reconnect with the grief of old.
But grief during its most terrible time can be displaced
momentarily when we are told or when we know of the many generous actions being
taken, and have we not seen so much of our great collective humanity in recent
times — the actions of our firefighters, our emergency services personnel, our
CFA (Country Fire Authority) firefighters, our army personnel and ordinary
Australians who just got up and got involved to help out? I wish to convey my
absolute admiration for them and to record my thanks to all of them. It is
our collective commitment to you that we will ensure you are also supported and
cared for over the coming months.
I express my thanks to ABC radio and its staff, to DHS
(Department of Human Services) and other government departmental personnel, to
the Red Cross, to local councils, to charitable organisations and to community
organisations. There are so many — too many to count. I also acknowledge the
generosity of those who have not been directly affected by the fires and thank
them for their donations of goods and money, their help, and their deep concern
There are also those who have not been directly affected that
have continued to search for new ideas to assist.
For example, there is a coastal town in my electorate where the
local community has taken up a project to audit and support services within
their own community so they can work up a proposal to enable people from
bushfire-affected communities who wish to relocate to do so and to ensure that
they are cared for and supported by that community.
Whilst most of this condolence motion is primarily focused on
the fires in the eastern and northern parts of the state, it is also important
to mention the bushfires in western Victoria, in the area I represent: at Haven
near Horsham; near Coleraine; and east of Camperdown on 7 February; and
currently at Muskvale, south of Daylesford. There have been property losses
including houses, a golf clubhouse and loss of stock. Thankfully no lives have
been lost, but John Smeets, who was seriously injured, continues to be treated
in the Alfred hospital.
Along with a number of other members of Parliament, I met with
his wife, Lorraine, yesterday and was provided with an update on his condition;
it is heartening that he is recovering, slowly but surely.
I also wish to thank those who fought so hard in western
Victoria to bring those fires under control. I want also to thank Mandy Kirsopp
and her sons and friends who fought the fires and were able to retain most of
her property at Haven. Mandy showed me the aftermath and shared with me her
feelings, concerns and ideas; she talked me through the Haven fire.
I also wish to thank the Horsham Rural City Council, the
Southern Grampians Shire Council, the Corangamite Shire Council and the Colac
Otway Shire Council for all their hard work and coordination.
Whether or not you live in an area that was affected directly
this time, most of regional Victoria at some time or another has suffered the
effects of bushfires, and whether that be in the Grampians, Linton or Anakie, in
1983 or 1939, those memories are very fresh and draw our connectivity together.
Over the ensuing weeks that connectivity will continue to be
lived at funeral services, but it will also continue to grow as we commit to
rebuilding lives. Importantly connectivity must continue as we learn from this
disaster. Integral to this is our approach to the royal commission. A bipartisan
approach to this commission is the only true measure of our commitment to our
word to listen, learn and implement measures that will enable our communities to
be even more resilient in the future.
In closing I wish to register my thanks to the Premier for his
leadership, compassion and sheer hard work, and for being a very important role
model for those in our community who may contemplate leadership roles. Men and
women across this state know it will be a long road to recovery. I say to those
individuals directly involved: my ongoing daily wish will be that you get
through each day and that in time each day, each week, each month gets better.
And I do pray that on every morning in the future you will be able to meet each
morning with joy and optimism.