Page 359 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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that our appreciation of what has happened in the South Asia region will increase our appreciation of the needs of the people in the third world generally. I hope we will not get tired of giving and tired of being concerned about people who are much less well off than ourselves. Aid agencies across the world have raised the concern that every day in Africa thousands of people die from AIDS, water-borne diseases and other preventable diseases.

It is not just happening in Africa, it is happening on our doorstep. For instance, according to AusAID, Papua New Guinea is facing a huge epidemic of AIDS with up to 40 per cent of the adult population expected to contract the disease within the next 20 years. When we are concentrating on those less well off than ourselves, I hope we keep before our eyes the fact that we are the privileged few in the first world. We have huge responsibilities, not just for tsunami victims and not just in January and February 2005; we also have an ongoing commitment to those people and an ongoing commitment to the people in the third world who suffer unimaginable horrors every day.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo): Many people in this place have said similar things but the least we can do is honour those people who unfortunately lost their lives on that day, and honour their families, particularly those in the Canberra community who are grieving and suffering loss at this time. I thank the Chief Minister for moving this motion today. This natural disaster has been an enormous wake-up call to us all. It has shown us how frail human life is and how what we count as important pales into insignificance. The enormity of the disaster really shows us how small we are in the big scheme of things. The Chief Minister and others have spoken about unity. Each of us has experienced a feeling of grief. Grief is a process that we each work through in our own way and in our own time. Perhaps today is a way for some of us to put that grief behind us and move on.

No-one can deny the tragic events of 26 December 2004. They will be indelibly printed on the minds of people affected by the tsunami across the Indian Ocean countries of Asia for some time to come. All of us in this place have been moved by the graphic images in our faces. Different things stick with different people. What sticks with me most of all, amongst many interviews I heard, was one person watching the bodies rushing past him in the water. He said he felt so desperate and helpless agonising over what was a head and what was a coconut. Imagine being put in the dilemma of the woman having to let a child go to save her other child—thank God they were reunited some time later. They are among the stories of human endeavour. We can take some good out of this. The Chief Minister put it very succinctly and very well—as have others: it has brought us together.

We should note that Australians led the way with initial aid contributions. We do not want to big-note ourselves on that, but it shows the massive hearts of Australians and our community. The generous level of cooperation that has been extended and the donations made to various appeals are sound indications that Australians do display compassion and reach out to their neighbours in time of need. I also agree with my colleague Mr Mulcahy. One thing we were very aware of in the early days, unfortunately, was people out there doing the wrong thing. It is reassuring to see AusAID staff endeavouring to check credentials of various organisations set to receive funding from the Australian assistance package before those moneys are released. People are continuing to give on the basis that they feel confident and secure.

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