Page 351 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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Australia itself is touched, with 19 Australians identified as having died—13 Australian citizens and six residents.

To bring it home, a local woman, Mrs Balachandra from Gordon, was in Sri Lanka with her family celebrating Christmas and unfortunately was caught up in the tsunami and lost her life. I understand from friends of the family that when Magdalene was found someone had taken the time to arrange her body, do her hair and lay flowers by her. I understand the family is very grateful for that small kindness. In a tragedy of such magnitude people still had time to pay the small courtesies.

It is something the world had to respond to, and I am very proud of the way Australia has responded to it—whether it be the federal government’s response of more than $1 billion over the coming years or the way our defence workers and aid workers and, indeed, Australians holidaying in those affected countries, pitched in and helped out. It is a very Australian thing to do. There is the reaction of the Australian public. More than $200 million was raised in such a short time. It is a tribute to the generosity of Australians and it is something that will be remembered for a long time.

I congratulate the people of Canberra, as the Chief Minister has said, for raising $38,000 on New Year’s Eve. It is no small amount of money. Memorial services were held in various churches and communities. People kept coming out time and again to be together, to pray and to offer their respects. We showed practical assistance through the medical team from the Canberra Hospital that was in the air almost immediately and the team of engineers that is currently in the Maldives assessing schools so we can start rebuilding these communities.

I recently received a copy of the newsletter from my old Marist school. The Marist community lost a school, the Holy Cross College in Kalutara, 40 kilometres south of Colombo. The Marist community of Australia has decided that it will donate $2 for every student at a Marist school. That should raise something like $100,000, which will be enough to rebuild that school. Brother Mervyn, who was in Sri Lanka on the day, wrote:

the tsunami came ashore on the 26th of December and destroyed the school. It was basically washed away by the waves. The people here are in shock. Many of the dead are children and a number of them have lost their father or mother. At the time of writing fifty of our students are still reported missing. The Brothers and staff now have a very big responsibility to care for these children who are orphaned, as they have nowhere to go.

That tragedy will never go away. We have a very long way to go. It is not over. Two months after the event it is not something the world put behind us, and we should not. It will be many years and will require many years of generosity—and I am sure Australians and Canberrans are up to that generosity—to ensure that we help restore Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives to where they were, so that we can all share in the world as it should be.

So, on behalf of the opposition I thank the Chief Minister for moving this motion this morning. It is important that we acknowledge the tsunami. So many communities in this city have been affected by it. I thank them for their generosity. I let them know they have the support of their Assembly, and together we can go a long way to making sure that we rebuild this shattered part of the world.

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