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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (30 January) . . Page.. 37 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Mr Cornwell mentioned the school at Duffy. The census does not need to occur, or it should take into account collecting children. Ms Gallagher has assured me that those things are being looked at so that children can stay in their own community if that is what they desire.

The counselling being provided by the government is necessary. At a community meeting yesterday community service providers, Lifeline and such organisations talked about their good work in partnership with the government. I commend the way the community sector and the government have worked together and will continue to do so. One caution is that there are people slipping through the cracks. We need to deal with that.

In the rebuilding it is important that houses be built according to a building code that takes account of the potential for future fires. Canberra is a city unlike all others. Without a doubt, we need to live more carefully in our environment and be cleverer in how we do it. If government works in collaboration with industry and the community, when we rebuild we can draw on the spirit-on the care for one another-that could be seen in this crisis.

MR HARGREAVES (12.40): I rise to add my comments concerning the tragic events which took place a short time ago. As many members will know, I was out of town when the disaster struck the ACT. I found out about the scale of the tragedy when I came back to Canberra on the Monday after that dreadful weekend.

Before coming to the Assembly, I worked in the department of education. Part of my role was to develop plans for evacuation and recovery centres, based on training that I received from Emergency Management Australia. The plan revolved around small, medium and large-scale disasters which may be visited upon Canberra. These included gas leakage, a terrorist attack, aircraft-oriented disasters, flooding in the event of Googong Dam rupturing and, of course, bushfires.

When I took to the streets on the Monday afternoon, I was struck by a number of emotions. Principal among them was the camaraderie and support neighbours were bringing to each other. This city without a soul took those victims to its bosom and smothered them in support. Another emotion expressed to me by people standing in the ashes of their homes was about the courage, professionalism and bravery of our frontline firefighters.

The community did not know or care about the difference between the professional firefighters and volunteers, ambulance officers or police men and women; they were all heroes. The people said that nothing could have stood in the way of this maelstrom, nothing could have been done that had not been done. They also expressed their grief, their despair and their hope in various ways. They cried, and I cried with them. They laughed, and I tried to laugh, too. But mostly they just talked and described not only their own experiences, but also the experiences of those around them. They told of individual acts of bravery. They marvelled at the selective nature of the fire. They told about the plight of pets and young kids and they told of their pain. They did not blame or seek to apportion responsibility or find scapegoats; they just got on with it.

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