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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (30 January) . . Page.. 28 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

Extensive mental health issues have been addressed, including 24-hour counselling services established through both Lifeline and Health First to assist residents affected by the fires. Outreach counsellors are visiting affected areas every afternoon to provide support to residents. They are working from the Lyons community recovery centre.

I would like to place on record my thanks for the offers of assistance with the fires that I received on Saturday afternoon from both the acting Commonwealth Minister for Health and the acting Western Australian Minister for Health. I thank them for their offers of assistance, in particular the Western Australian Minister for Health who offered the assistance of the Specialist Burns Unit at Royal Perth Hospital, which is known for its leading work in the treatment of burns victims. We are fortunate enough not to have to draw on that assistance, as our more seriously injured residents were transferred to hospitals in Sydney. Nevertheless, I thank them for offering it.

The events of January 18 are inevitably etched onto the consciousness of each of us individually and on our city overall. There are too many stories to relate but, talking to each other, understanding the enormity of what has occurred and seeing what attributes people can bring forward in such times show the strength of our community and our capacity to rebuild it stronger and closer than before.

MR STEFANIAK (12.04): Mr Speaker, these fires are the worst event we have ever seen in Canberra. As someone who was born here and has spent most of their life here, I have never seen anything like them. Four members of our society, our city, are dead and some 500 homes have been destroyed.

On 18 January I went to Wollongong to pick up my wife and two small children. My wife had her car down there, so I caught the bus and I was going to drive her home. At about a quarter to five we got to my stepdaughter's place. There was an urgent call from my stepson, who had gone to our Macgregor home after warnings. He relayed some terrible messages. At that stage it was obvious that a lot of Duffy had been affected. Parts of Holt had also been burnt, including areas in the vicinity of Mr Speaker's home. I was immediately concerned for Wayne and Rhonda. As messages kept coming through during the night, it was apparent that a dreadful tragedy had struck our city. We got our car back in the morning and came straight home, arriving at about 10 o'clock.

I went to the emergency services depot at Curtin and spoke to people and had a briefing. I then went to some of the centres. At Holder centre volunteers were giving residents tea, coffee and food. It was there that the enormous spirit of people became patently obvious to me. I met people who had lost their homes, but their spirits were hardly crushed-far from it. They were looking forward to rebuilding. Then and over the following week, I was privileged to hear some amazing stories of courage.

I thank all our emergency services. The police, the firies, the emergency services volunteer fire brigades, the emergency services that came from interstate and the defence personnel did a wonderful job. Various ministers have spoken about the magnificent work done by members of the ACT public service. I too witnessed that as I went round the centres like Narrabundah College and Ginninderra College. It was a magnificent effort from all concerned.

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