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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (30 January) . . Page.. 31 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

My personal thanks go to everyone involved. I am proud to be a Canberran and an Australian when I see the response of our community at this time of crisis.

MR BERRY (12.15): I offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those Canberrans who were lost in this tragedy. I am also concerned about the welfare of all those people who have been traumatised by this tragic event-the emergency workers who were involved in the firefighting and the recovery work that still goes on, and those people who have lost property, pets and treasured goods they will never see again. I pledge every ounce of skill, care and attention that I can add to the recovery to ensure that the trauma these people have suffered is reduced and that there is ample assistance in their recovery and the recovery of this city.

Like others in this place, I was away on the day of the fires. I was visiting my daughter on the coast. I had calculated from the weather reports that the time to be home was Sunday afternoon and Monday. That is what I had planned to do. But on Saturday we received a call from my son, who was at home. His mother took the call. Of course, that added another element of urgency to the issue. We listened to a somewhat scratchy 666 on the car radio as we headed back, sticking as much as we could to the speed limit.

The 21/2 hours it took to get back was a lot of time to reflect on what was happening. We made a few phone calls, as reception would allow, to make sure things were in order at home, that the necessary equipment was ready and that the risks were being watched out for. We were rebuked for ringing up too much, because that distracted people from the job they were doing. We listened to 666 all the way home.

When I heard on the radio that a couple of houses in Belconnen were alight, I thought to myself, "This cannot be true. This is out of control."In Giralang a couple of houses were lost. There were no teams available to fight the fire there. They were busy doing other things. When I first heard that, without all the facts, I thought, "By gee, we are in for serious trouble, and there may not be much to go home to."There was a sense of relief amongst the remorse when I heard that it was because of local factors that these houses caught fire.

I never expected that Spofforth Street, Holt would be affected. We had a well-watered golf course across the road. I had probably been as slack as many other Canberra householders in the way I had kept my yard. I had allowed the native trees to grow like topsy. I had taken the environmentally responsible approach of putting down a lot of mulch, which was now tinder dry and ready to burn. As we were driving home, I chewed over these factors and how we were going to deal with everything. I tried to think how I was going to behave like a firefighter with a garden hose that was not up to it and how I would be able to defend my house without the equipment a professional has. These things went through my head, as well as the terror for the uninitiated-emergency workers and people in the community-the calculated risks that some would take (quite successfully), the unforeseen, and some of the actions of people oblivious to the risks they would be taking.

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