Page 2 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 8 February 2022

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MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (10.04), by leave: I rise today to speak about my beautiful homeland of Tonga. When natural disasters happen and the things around us begin to crumble, we know too well how small we truly are on this ever-changing, ever-moving living planet we call home. At 6 pm on 15 January, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano began erupting. This volcano is only 65 kilometres north of the island of Tongatapu, where I grew up and where 70 per cent of Tonga’s population live. This was the most powerful volcanic eruption in the world in 31 years, with a force so much greater than several atomic bombs.

The eruption caused powerful tsunamis as high as 15 metres which flooded many islands. Ash fell over much of the nation, covering roads and buildings, contaminating water supplies and destroying agriculture. I worried and wept for my father, his brother and my extended family. The pain and heartbreak was shared by Tongans throughout the world as we stood by, anxiously waiting for news from Tonga as they lost communication from the rest of the world for days.

Heroic, miraculous stories have emerged from survivors. One particular story is from Lisala Folau. Lisala swam for 28 hours after getting swept out to sea by the tsunami. He landed and recovered on two islands before reaching the main island where, at that moment, his family was holding a memorial for him. You could almost imagine the joyful reunion between them. It is a miraculous story of strength, determination and faith.

The Australian government was quick to offer help, committing $3 million to Tonga’s recovery and also sending 40 tonnes of emergency supplies, including fresh water and equipment. We are indeed ever so grateful. It has also been heartwarming to see local Canberran businesses, sporting groups, families and individuals donate to the Tongan disaster relief. From the bottom of my heart, I thank each and every one of them.

Oku ou ma’u ha tu’a ‘ofa lahi atu kihe Tu’i Tupou 6, Pule’anga moe kakai ‘oe ‘otu Tonga, ‘ihe fakatamaki fakaenatula kuo ne uesia e ‘otu Tonga. In English, this translates to: I express my deepest love to the King of Tonga, the government and the people in the face of the disaster that mother nature has left them. I am most grateful for the Tongan people who are working so hard to clean and fix their islands. I know that their faith, their hard work and their love for each other will give them the strength that they need.

Administration and Procedure—Standing Committee

Statement by chair

MS BURCH (Brindabella) (10.07): Members, I make the following statement pursuant to standing order 246A. This follows discussions with the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure and party leaders. Members, you are aware that the Omicron outbreak has created significant challenges. The committee recognises that it is important that the Assembly, its committees and its members are able to continue to perform their democratic functions effectively. The Assembly will continue to legislate, scrutinise the government and represent the people of the ACT.

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