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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (30 January) . . Page.. 42 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

Like so many people who live in Belconnen, last Tuesday I was at home on the roof filling the gutters and watching the smoke, with treasured possessions piled in the boots of cars. (Extension of time granted.) But through the nervous waiting and watching there was laughter as neighbours chatted, perhaps for the first time, as they shared hoses to fill gutters. The waiting game will continue throughout this summer, but now we are better prepared and hopefully next summer, unlike the last two summers we have faced, our lives will not be so dramatically touched by mother nature.

This is the Canberra I know, one of optimism. While there is a desire to move on, and move on quickly, there is more to do than just move on. We must capture the strength that held this community together through the past two weeks and make sure that this sense of community continues for years to come. Tragedy has brought us closer together, but I am optimistic that this is just a rite of passage that Canberra has gone through.

This is our home. Over the next few months I look forward to working with the Assembly in playing a key role in rebuilding, I look forward to working with the community as it picks itself up and moves forward and I look forward to this strong sense of community becoming the envy of all Australians.

MS MacDONALD (12.57): I rise to add my own perspective to the bushfire disaster. At 1 o'clock on Saturday, 18 January, Brendan, my husband, and I drove down the coast to see friends and spend the night. Everything seemed fine to me. The smoke seemed no worse than it had been in the previous few days and the wind seemed to be less intense than it had been the day before. Brendan made the comment that maybe we should not be leaving when there were fires so close to Canberra, but I thought that there was no way that our home or any others in the area could be in danger. Obviously, I was wrong.

Just out of Braidwood we received a phone call from a friend to let us know what was going on and to offer us assistance. Unfortunately, we lost mobile reception and could not hear what he was saying. When we got to the coast and regained mobile reception, I received a text message from Alys Graham, who is now working in my office, saying, and I like this part, "Sorry to bother you on the weekend, but southern Tuggeranong has been evacuated!"

I rang Alys and, shortly after, Greg Friedewald from the Chief Minister's office. Greg told me that the ACT had been declared to be in a state of emergency. He also informed me that Mount Taylor had gone up. I was alarmed by that as my house was only a few hundred metres away from Mount Taylor reserve in Chifley. I understood from what Greg was saying to me that the situation for those in Kambah was bad and that houses had been lost in Duffy and Giralang. I found the last part hard to comprehend. The loss of houses in Canberra just seemed impossible to me.

Brendan and I discussed whether we should turn around and go back. I was of the opinion that if anything was happening near our house it was happening then. As it was, I was correct, I found out later. At around 4.00 pm, the fire came within about 400 metres of my house. I can only thanks those people who fought off the fire in that area. The fire came within 10 metres of houses on Lyle Place, just metres from my own front door.

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