Bushfires Motion

(Motion, 5 February 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

On behalf of the Sydney electorate, I speak in support of this condolence motion and share our sadness for lives lost, homes lost, animals killed, communities damaged, habitats destroyed and all who have been impacted. This bushfire season has been the most ferocious and devastating that our State has seen and not a single person has failed to be affected. The bushfires did not divide country and city; they united us in support of those in need. Many people from the city come from regional areas that have been impacted by the bushfires and have family and friends there. Some of my constituents have had threatened their family homes and the communities in which they grew up, and all of us have had our State's natural environment almost irreparably impacted.

The toll of homes lost is unfathomable, reaching 2,400, and there may be more with fires continuing to rage. I cannot imagine what it would be like to so suddenly lose everything one has worked for and to have to start over again. The sheer horror of what people have gone through is overwhelming—making decisions about whether to stay or leave without knowing which decision is safer; facing the fire front as it surrounds your home or your car as you try to escape; not knowing if friends or family are in danger. We know that the experience has left many traumatised and in need of mental health care and support. I thank and commend all our colleagues in this place who have shared their personal experience of the bushfires and in doing so have truly demonstrated the close and loving relationship they have with their electorates.

The loss of human life has been especially distressing, with 25 people having died in New South Wales alone. People have died in their homes, defending their homes or that of others, or in trying to escape or fight the fires. On behalf of my constituents, I pass on sympathy to all those who have lost friends or family members in this bushfire season. I pay a special tribute to the volunteer firefighters who died, including the three American firefighter pilots who came to this country to help. Their service to the State will always be remembered.

While most of the news around the bushfires has been dire, the unity and solidarity among people across the State has been heartening. People of all walks of life and from all regions have donated unparalleled amounts of money to help those affected, including for rehabilitating wildlife. As always, artists have been particularly generous in donating works or giving free performances at fundraisers. I am proud of the contribution of the many communities in my electorate.

The City of Sydney has donated $620,000 to bushfire and drought relief and wildlife rescue. It used its New Year's Eve event to raise over $13 million to support the work of the Red Cross in helping affected communities. It is assisting regional councils to replace damaged civil infrastructure and has helped to establish an office to link councils that need support with others that can offer assistance to rebuild. This Friday Sydney's LGBTI community will hold a fundraiser across venues on Oxford Street for bushfire recovery efforts. Almost every community group that I can think of has engaged in fundraising efforts to support those impacted. We will assist with any further help that is required.

I thank the Premier for her leadership during this time and for giving members the opportunity to express their condolences to those who have experienced such great loss in the bushfires. I thank all government agencies for their role in supporting communities, especially the NSW Rural Fire Service, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the New South Wales State Emergency Service, NSW Health and Service NSW. I hope that this Parliament will work to help reduce the suffering of affected communities and wildlife—I welcome the commitment to that made by all members—while also establishing the policies needed to prevent such devastation in the future. That will mean tackling the big challenges of climate change and land management. I commend the motion to the House.