Page 458 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 10 February 2009

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We in the ACT have tasted something of this. We saw history, heritage and community ruptured with the destruction of Stromlo, Uriarra and Pierces Creek in 2003.

The human spirit is resilient. Victoria will rally. Victorians will rally. And all Australians will support them as they make the journey. It may be that we in Canberra, with our particular experience, will be able to offer up the lessons we have learnt over the past six years, through our own physical and social rebuilding.

But that will be help for other days, other months and other years. What we can offer right now is immediate assistance—the 10 tankers and 90 men and women who are already on the ground at the fire front, and a cash contribution of $300,000 to the emergency appeal. We have also put Victorians in contact with those who led our community’s emergency and fundraising efforts back in 2003, in the hope that their expertise might ease some immediate logistical challenges. I have asked the special events team in the Chief Minister’s Department to suggest how we might use the upcoming Canberra Day events to tap into the generosity of the tens of thousands of Canberrans who will come together for this city’s birthday celebrations. It is gratifying, though not surprising, to see how swiftly Canberra businesses, local entertainers, community groups and working men and women are turning their minds to how best to help their fellow Australians through the difficult period ahead.

I know that as Chief Minister I speak not just for myself but on behalf of this city and this community when I convey to the people of Victoria my distress and dismay at the toll of the fires. While it is idle to claim to understand, we can feel and we can condole most deeply. And we do.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition): It is with great sadness that I speak to this condolence motion today. On behalf of the opposition I express my deepest sympathies and condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and my respect and admiration for the heroic firefighters from all across Australia still fighting these blazes. It was a terrible day, a day that shall live in the memories of all Australians for years to come. It is without doubt the worst fire tragedy to befall this country, a nation that has lived with the threat of firestorms throughout its history. The magnitude of the devastation and the loss of so many lives shows how extraordinarily vulnerable we can all be.

I was particularly struck by reports of many towns, residents and firefighting crews hearing of the blaze only to find the fire front upon them

These fires were in a state that had prepared itself to be on high alert. The threat was real and apparent. Yet all the preparations were not enough to halt the ferocity that these fires brought. We have all seen the awful results—results beyond our imagination. When the first news started trickling in, it was soon clear that this was a conflagration beyond even the worst predictions. So many fires on so many fronts with so many towns, farms and natural expanses in the way. I, like many Australians, was shocked when I heard the first reports of the loss of life, with more expected to follow.

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