MEMBERS STATEMENTS – 2009 VICTORIAN BUSHFIRES

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Ms GARRETT (Eastern Victoria) (18:09:09): Today we weep for all that was lost on that fateful day, and we stand as one with those who have suffered so very much. We draw inspiration from the extraordinary courage of so many during the heat of that battle and in the years that have followed, and we pray we never see a horror like it again.

Ten years ago, 173 beautiful people were lost—lives cut short by the unimaginable ferocity of nature. We mourn them and we grieve for the life’s journey that was stolen from them. For those they left behind these 10 years must have been so very hard. While we hope that this public commemoration a decade on reminds you that you are not alone, we know that much of your suffering is silent and it is relentless. Trust that you are held with love by the Victorian community, not just during this week but at all times.

For those who fought so bravely in the hell-on-earth conditions, we honour you. The scale of your task that day was for many incomprehensible: the size of the fires, the heat and the winds—the inferno that was unleashed. And in that trauma our emergency services personnel stood tall. In the worst of conditions our firefighters, police, SES and ambos were at their very best. Many who fought the flames were our exceptional volunteers, once again putting their lives on the line for their communities in that unique pledge of sacrifice and spirit that does us so very proud. We know that the efforts of our emergency services personnel came with a heavy toll and that ongoing trauma is common amongst this amazing group. We again remind you today, and all days, that the Victorian community is so very grateful for your bravery and is side by side with you in those difficult hours.

Many people also lost their homes and all that was in them. They lost beloved pets, livestock, businesses and livelihoods. The rebuild has been slow and tough, but rebuild you have. We walk on that road with you, and our respect for your resilience is enduring.

We also acknowledge those who went to the coalface to tell the stories: the journalists, the camera people and the radio announcers. Through their work we as a community better understood the pain being felt in that furnace. From the greatest of horror comes the most remarkable of human strength and spirit—the courage to fight, the capacity to create something from ash and dust, the understanding that love has no limit and time can heal, and the discovery that hope and mercy runs deep in us and around us.

Ten years on Victoria marks this milestone a changed state. We lost so many and so much that day, but we have found that faith and love, courage and kindness, and selflessness and compassion are the hallmarks of our people. We owe it to those who are no longer with us to continue in that spirit in all that we do.