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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (30 January) . . Page.. 16 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

Preschools and schools have a vital role to play in helping all members of their school communities to come to terms with what has happened. Preschools and schools will be a focus for many communities. Tremendous community gatherings have taken place at Duffy and Chapman primary schools, giving their communities a place to meet and start rebuilding those communities. I was at a meeting at Duffy Primary School on Monday night in the old school hall in which I had last sat in 1981 as a sixth grader and, as I looked around, I saw the faces, so many of them familiar, of the parents of people I had gone to school with, many of whom had lost homes. To them, Duffy school has become much more than a place where their children go to be educated. It is a gathering place for many of those residents.

Many students will be relocated from the worst affected areas and may seek enrolment in new schools. They will need a great deal of care. We are unsure about the number of children who may be displaced through this crisis, but some of the estimates are around 140 students spread across primary school to college. I have spoken to the school principals this week. Certainly, the view of principals and the department is that flexibility and understanding are the key words here-that if families want to access a new school, then that will be made available to them; if they want to travel back to the school where their children were enrolled, we are currently looking at ways to provide transport for those children and to make it easier for them to maintain their connections with those schools.

The school communities will contribute to the future feeling of security and normalcy in abnormal circumstances. The medium to long-term effects of the fire are difficult to predict. We know that many families have been displaced and need support, but we will not know for some time how this tragedy will affect all of our children-not only those who were directly affected, but also those who witnessed the pictures and images and the fear of their own parents. Our schools will be prepared to support these children. Again, flexibility and understanding will be a priority.

All members of the Assembly and the ACT community have been shocked by the magnitude of what hit the city. It will take all our strength, resourcefulness and compassion to rebuild for our fellow Canberrans. Let us continue these efforts to support each other and be a more resilient community than before. To all the people who lost loved ones, homes, pets, valuables, my thoughts, like those of every Canberran, are with you every day.

MR PRATT (11.17): Mr Speaker, the bravery and incredible stamina of our emergency services personnel, the diligence and courage of the Emergency Services Bureau in holding their nerve and continuing to coordinate emergency efforts at the height of the firestorm and, of course, the bravery of citizens pitching in to save each other are all beyond question. Who will ever forget both the bravery and the unflagging devotion to duty of firemen, police and other emergency services personnel?

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