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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 330 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

While I think we cannot underestimate the hard work done by the paid members of our emergency services, I would like today to mention our volunteers. As Mrs Dunne has mentioned, last year was the International Year of Volunteers, and much was made of the role of volunteers in our community. But it can be easy for us to forget. Volunteers, without a doubt, often go unrecognised, and with bushfire fighters of all descriptions and support teams working to save property and livestock across Canberra and the region, we must not forget that among these teams were people who were unpaid; that they took time out to be away from their families and friends to work incredibly hard in trying and sometimes dangerous situations.

It is important to give extra recognition to the role of such volunteers as these, not just with nice words, passing on thanks to people, although that is of course important, but through recognition of the incredibly valuable role such people play. If that work were to be withdrawn, the economic and social impacts would be immense and, in the case of the recent fires, certainly devastating. The ACT Democrats recognise that volunteering sends an incredibly important message, because people who work voluntarily do it because they believe it is important to contribute to make society a better place and to assist others to improve their role in the community. This is such a fundamentally important thing.

I know that territorians will join with us today to show their thanks and support, as has been demonstrated already throughout New South Wales, and I join with the rest of this Assembly in expressing my gratitude and deep appreciation by adding my support to this motion.

MRS CROSS (11.39): I too wish to add my thanks to those who fought the bushfires in Canberra and surrounding regions over the Christmas-New Year period. I was here at the start of those bushfires and recall that going home from work on the day these fires commenced there was a calm over Canberra. Probably we were comforted by knowing that we had available not only volunteer bushfire fighters but also our wonderful men and women from Urban Services and other paid services in Canberra who are there to protect our interests and our personal safety.

I was concerned about the personal safety of one of my colleagues who had left this place much earlier, and remember calling him on my mobile phone on the way home, concerned for his safety.

I am also aware of those who, after the Canberra fires were under control, joined the efforts at Shoalhaven, Sydney and northern New South Wales for a number of weeks. As we learn only too well from time to time, tackling a bushfire is fraught with danger. Lives can easily be lost because of the stupidity or antisocial behaviour of others. We were fortunate in that regard-this time. However, a number of firefighters were injured, and the cost to the community was still severe. In the ACT a large number of both paid and volunteer firefighters were called on over the Christmas period. Members from the Rivers, Jerrabomberra and Gungahlin brigades were joined by volunteers who willingly gave up family celebrations to protect our fair city.

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