Page 2209 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 1 August 2017

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While reflecting upon Val’s life, I came across an article that appeared in the Canberra Times in November 1981 entitled “Tharwa plan optimism”. The article discussed an NCDC plan for the village of Tharwa and its presentation to local residents at the Tharwa community hall. On one occasion there was concern about an NCDC plan and how it would have an impact on the tennis courts. It was reported that at that public meeting Val Jeffery argued that the village should simply be “kept as it is”. Somewhat amusingly, the final sentence of the article noted:

At the end of the meeting, Mr Jeffrey … asked the NCDC for the standard fee of $20 for the use of the hall.

This sums up Val: putting his community first, ahead of bureaucracy. No bigwigs from Canberra were going to escape that $20 fee. Of course, it was Val’s involvement for 60 years as a member of the local bushfire brigade, 38 of them as captain, which he will be particularly remembered for. I quote from an editorial in the Canberra Times last week:

His knowledge came to the fore during the 2003 bushfires.

Four days before the January 18 firestorm devastated Canberra, Mr Jeffery wrote to Tharwa residents warning them there was a very real chance the fires would break out of the mountains and if that happened suppression forces would be overwhelmed so that people needed to be prepared to help protect their own properties.

Many residents regarded that advice—as well as Mr Jeffery leading the brigade in burning a break around the western side of Tharwa on the night of January 17—as being instrumental in saving the village. Not only that, Mr Jeffery persuaded two young police officers on the afternoon of January 18 not to evacuate Tharwa because residents were well-prepared and needed to be on the ground to protect their homes against ember attack.

That was more than 14 years ago. Many Canberrans who arrived in the national capital after the firestorm may not even know it happened. We cannot afford to be complacent.

Val was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2006 for his service to Tharwa, noting his service to the local bushfire brigade. He was also awarded the prestigious Australian Fire Service Medal in 1994 for distinguished fire service. In 2012 his name was added to the ACT Honour Walk in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to Canberra.

I, too, would like to offer my condolences to Val’s wife, Dorothy, his son, Kevin, daughter-in-law, Linda, and grandchildren, Madelaine and Charlotte. Val was a very special person and he will be missed.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (10.11): On behalf of the ACT Greens, I join my Assembly colleagues in expressing my condolences on the death of Val Jeffery two weeks ago. Although he was a member of the Assembly for such a short period last year, he was, of course, well known to many of us, not so much as a political

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