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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (30 January) . . Page.. 15 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

Many of us here visited the evacuation centres, the Emergency Services Bureau, the Winchester Centre and other sites, and were overwhelmed by the magnitude of what had happened and what needs to be done to assist those who have lost. The response saw the opening of evacuation centres at Narrabundah, Erindale, Ginninderra and Phillip, of hotlines and of the ACT recovery centre in incredibly short timeframes, which was testament to the dedication of those involved, both government and non-government. On Saturday night after the evacuation of Phillip, Narrabundah was coping with about 4,500 people and it had only opened early in the afternoon with three people in charge.

I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of providing responses which are empathetic, accessible and not overly bureaucratic. When people arrive at the ACT recovery centre at Lyons they are greeted in the car park by members of the Salvation Army who provide a welcoming face and ask them what assistance they need and guide them through the centre. Within the centre, there are staff offering financial assistance, housing advice, building information and counselling.

Bovis Lend Lease is there to provide information on the demolition and clearance of sites and community agencies are located there-Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul and staff from Centrelink and the federal Department of Family and Community Services. The YWCA has established a child-care centre there for use by people registering at the centre or wanting to leave their children there while they go to clean their blocks. I spoke to one woman who was making use of the recovery centre and it had taken her two hours to work her way through the centre, so child care was certainly in need. Outreach counselling services also have been operating, going out to Tidbinbilla, Kambah and those areas worst affected to provide support, advice and information.

To think that the ACT recovery centre was established and all these agencies and services were pulled together by last Friday is a credit to all those involved. I was there on the Monday following the fires and that centre had not been opened for, I think, two years previously and when it opened on Friday it was in a completely new building. As of yesterday, 946 people had registered with the centre and 796 applications had been received for disaster relief.

The recovery centre's establishment is evidence of the cooperation and fine spirit of all Canberrans keen to play their part in helping those who have experienced such loss. Also evident is the generosity, not just of Canberrans, but of people all over Australia. We have been overwhelmed with offers of assistance, and this is taking all forms-people offering their own equipment and labour to help clean blocks, students from Narrabundah College who turned up on the night to help at the evacuation centres, businesses offering food, goods and volunteer help, organisations wanting to raise funds, and individuals just wanting to assist. We all want to help and to feel in some way that we can make things better. The healing process has begun and the ACT recovery centre and other recovery plans will make sure that this process is continued and cemented.

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