Tuesday 11 August 2020
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Australian PM - 1 month ago

Statement On Indulgence - Black Saturday Bushfires 10th Anniversary

Mr Morrison: (Cook—Prime Minister) (14:10): I would like the House to extend its deepest sympathies to the many people devastated by the Black Saturday bushfires, which scorched Victoria on 7 February place on record its profound regret at the deaths of 173 record its admiration for the courage shown by communities, families and individuals in the face of this natural di and acknowledge the incredible efforts of the emergency workers, police, Defence personnel and volunteers in responding to this disaster and helping to rebuild over the decade that has since passed. In the past weeks, many if not most of the members of this House, particularly those from Victoria, have been recalling the Black Saturday bushfires of a decade ago that impacted 78 communities across Victoria. I had the opportunity to be present with the Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker and other members at the service that was held in Melbourne to mark that event, joining together with those who endured those terrible days to be with them again together. Ten years have passed since that terrible day and the days that followed. Remembering it can be painful and is. It s unsettling but can also help make sense of the past, as we ve sought to learn from it since. In remembering Black Saturday, we remind ourselves of what was faced but also what has since been overcome. A decade on, the scale of the Black Saturday fires still defies explanation and comprehension. The human toll is unimaginable: 173 lives lost, over 400 injured, thousands stricken with emotional scars to this day and beyond, and the grief of loss. Nineteen thousand CFA volunteers and volunteers from other agencies fought hundreds of fires that eventually would burn over 450,000 hectares of our country. According to the RSPCA, over one million animals perished, incinerated. Fire has always been with us in this timeless land, but these were no ordinary fires. I remember in this place when the member for McMillan stood here and gave what I would have to say was the most moving speech I think I ve ever heard in this place. I want to thank the member for McMillan and the other members who spoke in that debate—those who were here at that time—because you helped the country grieve and understand the momentous nature of this loss. The member for McMillan had been a volunteer firefighter, as many are in this place, for many years, and he told the House about the fire coming up out of the Bunyip state forest. He said: The awesome fury of this fire cannot be comprehended by the thinking of any reasonable person. Of the scale of loss, he said: I know there are people who will wake every morning believing that it was all a that it did not happen. And then they will realise it was not a dream and they will cry and they will cry again. And cry we did in this chamber. The Speaker himself will recall that well. The loss at the time seemed more than we could bear. When we heard of the bravery, though, and the selflessness, we shed tears again: firefighters who travelled from around Australia, as they have indeed been doing in recent weeks and volunteer responders who put the safety of others ahead of the defence of their own prop neighbours who defended neighbours, only to be caught by the fires themselves. Those who saw those terrible blazes will never forget them. They were days that rained fire, they said, when the smoke was so thick that it turned day into night. Through it all, people took refuge wherever they could: under lily pads, in dams, in fishponds, in creek beds. Emergency services were unceasing, pushing through so many physical limitations. Parents tried to be brave for their kids tried to be brave for their parents. One young man, helping out a family he knew, was caught in the deadly fire s path. With no escape, he called his dad to let him know, and then he sent a text: Dad, I m dead. I love you. Ten years on, it still breaks the heart, as it does today, as we hear these things. The rescue efforts were nothing short of remarkable and astounding. The fire and emergency services, the police, the Defence Force, the hospital staff, the paramedics and the many support organisations that responded on that day and in the weeks that followed are heroes. Yet, as so often happens in this great nation, terrible suffering walked hand in hand with kindness and generosity. Our whole nation rose up in support. Everyone dug deep into their pockets. In Ingham, in North Queensland—the member for Kennedy would know—where floodwaters at the time were still receding at the time, local residents arriving at the community recovery centre donated from their emergency grants to the recovery in Victoria. How amazing is that? How good is that? Some gave their entire grant. Ten years on we remember. At the memorial service that we attended together, Dr Kathy Rowe told a beautiful story of how first the parrots came back and then, as the land healed, the insect eaters came back. Then the honeyeaters came back, as the bush regenerated. She told us that two-thirds of the species are back, but the lyrebird isn t back yet. There s still healing of the land and the people to come. So, we remember, 10 years on, that from deep suffering came deep selflessness, that from terrible consequences came lessons—lessons that have been and must still be learned and still must be implemented, even from the royal commission many years ago. Through it all, Australians turned to each other. They supported each other through the long, dark days of rebuilding. To everyone affected by the Black Saturday fires, as you contemplate these things and you relive the hurts and you look at the wounds and you look into your future—and especially as you look at someone dear—we offer our heartfelt sympathy of this parliament and the nation. We will never forget.

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