Page 906 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 24 February 2009

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Victorian bushfires

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (4.56), by leave: I move:

That this Assembly notes with gratitude the outstanding efforts of ACT emergency services and police personnel providing dedicated assistance in dangerous conditions to bushfire stricken communities in Victoria and further notes the efforts of, and congratulates, the broader ACT community in donating financial assistance and essential goods to these communities.

We have all watched with a growing sense of horror the unfolding story of the devastating bushfires in Victoria. The stories of heroism and of tragic loss have dominated the national media, the national consciousness and conversations we have all had in our workplaces, in our homes and in our community over the past two weeks. Given the unprecedented death toll, there are many Canberrans who are mourning the loss of friends and family members, and our thoughts and prayers remain with all of those people who have lost loved ones, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.

Today Senior Firefighter (Qualified) David Balfour, who was so tragically killed on the fireground last week, was laid to rest. Again I take this opportunity to extend to Mrs Balfour and her children and to their extended family and his firefighter colleagues our sincere condolences. We also express our gratitude for the exemplary professionalism and selfless service displayed by Mr Balfour throughout his career in the ACT Fire Brigade to the Canberra community and, most recently, to our Victorian friends in their hour of great need.

Of course, Madam Assistant Speaker, for Canberrans the poignant images of destruction in communities like Kinglake, Marysville and Churchill and descriptions of the firestorms have brought rushing back memories of January 2003 when our own community suffered the most violent extremes of a threat we live with every year—the threat of bushfire.

Australians have a remarkable capacity and willingness to help each other in the face of crisis, and the remarkable outpouring of financial, emotional and material support to those left homeless by the Victorian fires is another example of the enormous generosity of Australians to their fellow citizens when they need it most.

It is also important to recognise and reflect on the assistance we Canberrans received in our hour of great need in 2003, and it is testament to the character of people such as David Balfour that we have seen the opportunity to go to Victoria and help as an opportunity to return the favour and repay that debt. There is, of course, a long and proud tradition of interagency cooperation amongst emergency services that crosses state and jurisdictional boundaries, reflecting the commitment of those full-time and volunteer firefighters, SES and other agencies who risk and sacrifice so much to protect and thus support our community.

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