Page 355 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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As well as that, at an average dinner some $7,000 was raised from the ticket sales, $5,000 at the auction and I think about $11,000 in money pledged—$22,000 to $23,000 all up. I suppose that is just a microcosm of effort throughout the ACT and throughout Australia. That particular fundraiser was highlighting the plight of families and women in Banda Aceh. There has been a fantastic response from the Australian and the ACT community, and the usual excellent effort by our defence force personnel who, even now, are assisting their colleagues in Aceh and other areas to slowly start the long task of rebuilding from this absolutely devastating tragedy. I am certain that we in the ACT and Australia will continue to play our part in the recovery effort, which will take a long time.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella): I am sure that all of us were horrified and overwhelmed by the extent of devastation and death caused by the Asian tsunami on 26 December 2004. Each of us now will have etched on our memory where we were and what we were doing when we first learnt of the event. The magnitude of the destruction was not at first evident. The ensuing images and stories that bombarded our television screens, radio waves and newspapers, while giving us a glimpse into the disaster, possibly also served to desensitise us to the extent of the human misery this has caused. I know that I cannot take in the full impact. I cannot fully comprehend the number of houses flattened, other buildings destroyed, the businesses lost, livelihoods wrecked and lives lost. I cannot fully appreciate the total and utter transformation that this is having and will continue to have into the distant future on so many people’s lives. But I have had, in a very small way, an insight into the devastation this wave has caused for someone very close to me.

On 26 December, like many others, I was on my annual holidays, visiting friends and relatives in Sydney. When the images first flashed up on the screen in our hotel room, I could not believe that this was happening. Of course, in the next couple of days it became clear that it was not a surreal nightmare. In 1990, I met Fiona Nott. Fiona and I served together on the board of directors of the University of Sydney Union. Fiona was then, and still is, a truly remarkable woman, and I am pleased to say that she is still one of my close friends. She has a wonderful social conscience, a sharp business mind and knows the difference between wrong and right. She also knows how to have fun while still getting the job done. More than all of that, Fiona has a beautiful soul and in the past few weeks I have come to appreciate how incredibly strong she is.

Over the years I have met both Fiona’s father, Richard, and her brother, Christian. So, when I rang Fiona the Wednesday after the tsunami and she told me that Christian and his new wife, Moi, were missing in Khao Lak, Thailand, I felt for both Fiona and her dad. Like all of her friends and many others in the community, I wanted to do something to help but was powerless to do anything other than send messages of love and support. Fiona and her dad’s lives have been thrown into utter turmoil by the tsunami. Days led into weeks of waiting, hoping and praying that Christian and Moi would be found safe, alive. As more days went by, the hope of finding them alive dissipated and was replaced instead with prayers that signs of the couple, some personal effects, might be found and that their bodies would be recovered and identified.

So far a body that is believed to be Christian’s has been recovered but is yet to be identified by DNA tests. I did not know Moi and it has been many years since I last saw

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