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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (30 January) . . Page.. 33 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

We will now go into a coronial inquiry. It will be extremely difficult. I point out to members that the inquiries and reviews will create a great deal of pressure for people who work in emergency services and will be grim reminders for people who have been involved in the process. It will be a difficult 12 or 18 months for Canberra. We have to keep that in mind in all of our deliberations on the issue. (Extension of time granted.)

We know that this event will be followed by others. We still have a large part of the fire season to run. We do not need the attention of our emergency workers distracted too much by inquiries, even though the inquiries have to happen and have to be seen to be happening. Citizens of the ACT rightly expect that they will happen expeditiously. But they have to be conducted in such a way as not to distract people from the valuable work they carry out.

If workers and volunteers are distracted from their work, they might not be able to make the contributions to the inquiries that we would like to see them make. No stone should be left unturned in these circumstances. These inquiries will not be the last into a bushfire in this country. Each time there is an inquiry into emergency services as a result of an incident, something good comes out of it and we are better prepared to deal with future emergencies. I look forward to that, and I look forward to a process that takes us forward, repairs the damage and strengthens the people of the ACT.

MS TUCKER (12.27): We all know many people who lost their homes or a friend or a loved one in the fires on 18 January, and our hearts go out to them. On behalf of the ACT Greens, I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and my sympathy to those people who are still suffering from injuries and have lost so much.

The loss of over 500 houses in Duffy, Chapman, Kambah, Uriarra and many other suburbs and localities is still hard to comprehend. A sense of untouchability comes with living in our ordered suburbs, despite our relationship to the bush. But Canberra is a small place, and the one or two degrees of separation between us all has meant that everybody's sense of safety has been truly shaken by the fires.

The damage extends beyond the suburban edge. The sheer number of hectares of our parks that have been burnt out and the ecosystems, the plants and the animals that have been destroyed or significantly damaged cannot be underestimated. Farmlands and forests, valuable and loved places such as Tidbinbilla and Birrigai Outdoor School, Mount Stromlo Observatory, infrastructure such as power and sewerage, our enviable fresh water catchment, and various endangered ecological communities have been similarly affected.

It is also true that everyone in Canberra knows of homes and lives saved through strange luck and through bravery. The fact that people looked to support their friends and neighbours in this situation is a great affirmation of the human spirit. We can take from it, I believe, recognition of the fact that we do care for one another and that people will so often look out for one another in a crisis. This positive that has come out of a very hard time is something we must celebrate and hang on to.

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