Page 4087 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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sustainability and bushfire recovery. Many speakers highlighted strategies employed in sustaining the environment after the devastation of the bushfires. As Mr Gentleman has said, the message we heard day after day was that we can indeed recover after such devastation, but the overwhelming message that I heard over and over again was the importance of people in recovery.

Many people talked about volunteers. Greening Australia showed us Mount Stromlo and discussed the fact that volunteers had come to the fore then and since to participate in the replanting and restoration of our environment. They explained that 2,800 community volunteers, supported by volunteer bushfire brigades and ACT Emergency Services, have participated in propagation, planting, watering and other activities. Indeed just last Saturday Mr Gentleman and I were busy at the botanic gardens propagating thousands of plants. There were 27,000 plants propagated this weekend towards this effort. We have also been out on Mount McDonald and Pine Island planting trees, as many members of this place probably have done over the past few weeks and months.

Ironically, the field trip day treated us to the exact opposite weather that we experienced in January 2003, with the temperature down to six degrees, and I am sure much lower if you take into account the windchill factor. Braving the wild, windy and wet weather, travelling to many sites affected by the fires and viewing many recovery initiatives firsthand, even on that day we planted trees. It was a pity that this field trip had to be cut short due to the weather. Notwithstanding that, I suspect this day will stay in the memories of those who attended the conference long after the words are forgotten. The human experience of bushfire and recovery was emphasised by speakers over and over again. Volunteer groups from bushfire-affected areas talked about how, since January 2003, their communities have been brought together to heal, and to restore their urban environments, forming new community bonds.

Many people learnt for the first time the value of the wonderful experience of volunteering as they spontaneously came forward to offer help wherever they could. Many of those people could not be utilised at the time because plans were not in place to handle such an outpouring of community goodwill. That is not unusual, as one of the lessons learnt after September 11 is that it is necessary to harness the human spirit in a far more efficient manner.

Since 2003 the ACT has developed an excellent plan to manage spontaneous volunteers. This plan stands us in good stead, as it is one of the leading plans in the world of disaster recovery. I would recommend that all members have a look at that plan, which can be found on the Volunteering ACT website. I offer thanks to all those who planned with us and supported us through that conference. I can only echo your words, Mr Gentleman, in saying that we had a wonderful team behind us that enabled us to deliver such a conference. I am looking forward to the next one.

Debate (on motion by Mr Pratt) adjourned to the next sitting.

Standing orders—suspension

Motion (by Mr Corbell) agreed to, with the concurrence of an absolute majority:

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