Local, Independant and Effective

2009 Bushfires commemorations

Posted December 03, 2018


In honouring, acknowledging and remembering the 2009 bushfires, I shared the important report by Women's Health Goulburn North East that researched resilience responses to natural disasters. Read the report here.

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (11:55): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) 7 February 2019 will be the 10th anniversary of the bushfires that devastated parts of Victoria;

(b) the fires were the most devastating in Australian history, killing 173 people, burning more than 450,000 hectares of land and destroying more than 2,000 houses;

(c) in the 10 years since those devastating fires and the horrific weather conditions that preceded them, communities in the electoral division of Indi have worked hard to rebuild homes, businesses, communities and lives;

(d) in the immediate aftermath of the fires, these communities were inundated with generous offers of help, including the commitment of governments at all levels to work with those affected to rebuild;

(e) as a result, much has been done to rebuild communities, to provide support to help heal the devastating emotional loss and progress the recovery of those many thousands of people affected by these fires;

(f) while much has been achieved, it is time to finish the task of rebuilding core infrastructure and restore the sense of place and vibrancy within communities that were destroyed almost 10 years ago; and

(g) the 10 year anniversary of the 2009 fires presents an opportunity to bring together bipartisan support from all levels of government to announce and complete this rebuild; and

(2) calls on the Government to:

(a) pay tribute to the strength, courage and resilience of those who survived the fires on 7 February 2009;

(b) continue to provide support to individuals and communities who lost so much;

(c) honour those who lost their lives in these fires;

(d) acknowledge the wonderful work of the frontline emergency services personnel and volunteers, the community agencies, governments at all levels and individuals involved in assisting local communities to rebuild in the past 10 years; and

(e) honour a commitment to work with those communities devastated by the 2009 bushfires to complete the task of rebuilding core infrastructure and restore their heart and soul.

Colleagues, next year, in February, we will remember the 2009 bushfires in Victoria. Sadly, parliament won't be sitting then, so members from surrounding electorates have gathered today to honour, acknowledge and thank and to bring to mind those 10 years. I would like to honour those who died: the many, many people who died at the time and those who have died since. I would like to acknowledge the trauma, the hardship, the courage, the persistence and the dedication of individuals, groups and government during those fires, post the fires and, still working, 10 years on.

I also would like to take the opportunity in this House today to reflect on and be thankful for the fact that, when disasters happen on such a large scale, many people come to help us. I know that, as I talk, this current circumstance is being played out in Queensland. To my electorate of Indi, people from right around the country gave so generously. Millions of dollars were invested at the time, and then in philanthropic trusts following the fires to continue to support people in my community. In bringing my remarks to the parliament today, I want to talk a little bit about some research, some outcomes and some things that we still need to work on.

I'd like to start with research. I'm a great believer in the power of research. I'd like to bring to the attention of my colleagues today in parliament, and people watching this recording, some research on long-term disaster resilience that has been undertaken by Women's Health Goulburn North East, with support from Victorian and Commonwealth governments, Monash University and the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation. It comes in three volumes: the executive summary, the long-term resilience full report and a literature review. I just want to read out some of the headings that are covered in this research before I pay particular attention to one finding: 'Part 1: Perceptions of disasters' significance'; 'Aren't you over it yet?'; 'What happened?'; 'A defining moment'; 'No getting over it'; and 'Long-term consequences of the disaster'. The second chapter talks about what helps and hinders resilience and what we can learn, particularly about gender in resilience. Then they talk about children, family obligations and disaster planning. It's a report well worth looking at.

I'd particularly like to talk about one of the postcards that they've produced to help communities like mine as we prepare for summer. It's talking about gendered fire planning. I know you will find this interesting, Deputy Speaker Bird, because, when they did the research, they talked to men and to women and to LGBTI people affected and saw that gender makes a huge difference. And the case I'm going to bring up is about fire plans. Only five per cent of people actually have a written fire plan. When they did the research, they saw that there was an enormous difference between what men and women thought a fire plan was. Mostly women say: 'We want to go. We'll pack the stuff up, we'll get out and we'll get out early'. But what they found is that there's a heroic sense that many of our Australian men have of staying and fighting the fires. Women would escape alone or with children, often in terrifying circumstances. What happened with our men was that they would stay and fight or, alternatively, leave late. You've got the family in the car having a rip-roaring argument about what's going on. It's in those circumstances that many of the people died. The importance of fire planning and how men and women are doing it, understanding that we do it differently, is really important. This report has just got so much in it that's worth reading, and I can't recommend it enough. It's not only got recommendations but also wisdom for how we move forward.

I'd also like briefly to comment that we're not over it yet in north-east Victoria. There is still work to be done. There's infrastructure work. There are people with mental health issues. And there are communities still very much affected by those fires. So, to all the people involved, thank you for the work you've done. We haven't forgotten you. We know we've got to continue to work. To those facing bushfires in other parts of Australia: come to us, because we've got a lot of knowledge and wisdom to share about how we worked and how we can support you during your time of need.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Bird ): I thank the member. Is the motion seconded?

Mr Rob Mitchell: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

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