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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 71..

MRS BURKE (continuing):

reinforce such efforts here by doing the same for the ESA, building upon its efforts to respond to the recommendations of the McLeod inquiry relating to operational response.

I must say that it is promising that the computer-aided dispatch, or CAD, system has been put in place by the ACT government to ensure, it would be hoped, an improvement in communications between the ambulance service, the fire brigade, the SES and the Rural Fire Service and lead to improvements in the coordination of responses to all forms of natural disasters.

As is the case with all other areas concerning sufficient funding for essential services, bolstering support for volunteers in the area of emergency services is paramount and the Liberal opposition will support the government in finding some innovative ways to source sufficient funding to continue to provide levels of support to emergency services that the community would expect and trust the government are capable of delivering. In closing, I sincerely appreciate, as always, Ms Porter's attention to promoting volunteers and appreciate this opportunity to join with her in applauding the work of SES volunteers.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (4.50): Today, we have heard in the chamber about how the wonderful ACT emergency services volunteers have worked hard in protecting and enhancing our environment. There are many areas in which we have volunteers amongst the emergency services, as my colleagues have already stated. I would like to put some names to the volunteers we have acknowledged today.

First and foremost, as has been discussed, where would we be without the emergency services volunteers from across the border? It would be a challenge for us to try to manage our critical programs. These people give hours of their time for no other reason than to help provide a service to the community, although we have already heard about the number of volunteers in the ACT. I will repeat the number. There are approximately 1,300 volunteers and they provide an invaluable service in protecting the community.

I would like to take some time to talk about the regular people that have been involved in emergency services in the ACT for a long period. One such person is Mr Graeme Tonge, who has been a volunteer in the ACT for well over 30 years. Mr Tonge started his time in emergency services in 1968 and is still continuing as a volunteer to this day. Mr Tonge was called on to give a speech to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Emergency Services Authority in the ACT late last year and was proud to be recognised as the longest serving member of the ACT ESA.

His strong involvement in the early days included restoring the radio link to Darwin after Cyclone Tracy in 1974 and drudging through waist-deep water looking for bodies after the flash floods in Woden in 1971. He has remained involved, leading a team of volunteers to Sydney to assist in regard to its fire dangers. All of these tasks were ones that Mr Tonge volunteered for and was proud to be involved in. They would not have been possible without the additional hours that volunteers put in to keep members up to date with all training requirements. It has been the loyalty of other members of Graeme's unit and the satisfaction of serving the community that has kept him involved in the SES for such a lengthy time.

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