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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (30 January) . . Page.. 39 ..

MS DUNDAS (12.46): On behalf of the ACT Democrats, I rise to offer sympathy for those who suffered in this disaster that struck Canberra to its core. I also rise to reflect on how we will rebuild and to express optimism that the strengths that pulled Canberra together in its time of need will help rebuild this city.

The firestorm that hit our suburbs struck with a fierceness that was unexpected and unstoppable. Many eyewitnesses, as well as experts in fire management, are in agreement that this freakish event could not have been stopped under the circumstances. This firestorm took the lives of four people in our community. That means there are four families grieving and many more friends and colleagues mourning the loss. Their lives have been cut short and I am sure many more have been touched by their stories.

Many Canberrans were treated in our hospitals for injuries sustained in preparing for or fighting the fires. To those people we send our warm wishes for a speedy recovery to full health. Our hearts go out to the more than 500 households which have had their homes destroyed. I can only imagine their sense of loss at a part of life's history-maybe photos, an old chair, an heirloom or a cherished family toy. Along with a sense of shock and grief, there would be a feeling of violation that this merciless firestorm has engulfed your house, your history and the sense of self that comes with having a place to call your own.

We all have individual stories about these fires. Good friends of mine lost everything when their house was destroyed, along with almost every other house, at the Stromlo settlement-photos, wedding presents, computers, all gone. I for one will mourn a house I loved, one of the most comfortable couches I ever sat on and a quiet yard with many trees I used to climb. Yesterday, my friends held a wake for their house and its contents and friends who had for many years celebrated in that house gathered to marvel at the destruction-a whole settlement, cars and the forest burnt and black. From the settlement you could even see the remains of last year's Christmas fires.

But we also looked to the future and marvelled at the generosity of the Canberra spirit. My friends survived and they do have hope, but they do know that it is unlikely that they will ever return to rebuild at Stromlo, which was a heritage-listed public housing settlement. While we consider the future of the ACT forest industry and we start rebuilding our suburbs, we must not forget those who lived at these settlements at Stromlo, Uriarra and Pierces Creek-our communities within communities. The Stromlo settlement, as we have known, may never be rebuilt. The small and historic settlement surrounded by trees and forests may instead be redeveloped into something quite different.

I also wish to spend a moment thinking about the trauma of those whose houses have been spared, but where they used to have 50 houses in their street, full of neighbours, they now have only one or two. We hear of their guilt and how they feel and the heartache that has been caused.

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