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Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Page: 42


Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:21): I rise to acknowledge the Australians who, living in the path of natural disasters, are facing a very tough start in 2016. While fire threatened the Great Ocean Road communities in Victoria and the beautiful south-west of Western Australia, Northern Territorians and Queenslanders and people in the Hunter in New South Wales faced floods. We think of those who are now sifting through the remnants of hundreds of homes and properties lost in Wye River and Separation Creek in Victoria

We particularly think of the people from Yarloop in Western Australia, whose town was destroyed by ferocious fires that burnt down homes, businesses and commercial infrastructure. It is hard to imagine the strength of their feelings as they decide whether to stay and rebuild or whether they will leave forever. We remember that in Daly River and in other Northern Territory communities and in the Hunter in New South Wales people are still cleaning away the mud and debris left by the floodwaters.

For many, what should have been a time to relax and celebrate with family and friends was instead marred by personal tragedy. We pay tribute to their courage, their pragmatism and their indomitable spirit. Many of those people who lost property expressed a deep gratitude that they and their families are alive. Today, we also remember those who were not so fortunate and we express our sympathy and condolences to the families and the friends of the two Territorians who lost their lives in the Northern Territory floods and the two men who were killed in the fire in Yarloop in Western Australia.

We say thank you to all of those who helped in difficult and dangerous circumstances and who, through acts big and small, are helping people recover, repairing communities and restoring infrastructure. In particular, we say thank you to the firefighters and the other emergency personnel who gave up their time, courageously put their own lives at risk and coordinated the much needed logistics.

When Lucy and I, with the member for Corangamite, spoke with some of the volunteers who had fought the fires around Wye River, we were struck by the ability of the community to organise and help each other. Yes, there was a tragic loss of property. But there was also a real triumph in the way the community managed their response to the natural disaster, which had a force and power beyond human control.

Time and time again, Australians show grace under pressure and bravery in the face of danger, and rally without a second thought to help each other. As the member for Forrest pointed out, at the time of the Waroona-Yarloop-Harvey fires those brave firefighters were doing their best to save the homes of strangers while they knew their own homes were burning. Such selfless sacrifice and such constructive, instinctive optimism is the best of our Australian character.

Those selfless characteristics were on show again in the north of Western Australia on the weekend, when communities prepared for Tropical Cyclone Stan, and in Tasmania where the twin threats of fire and flood have wreaked havoc for emergency services and townships alike. Those characteristics of selflessness, courage, pragmatism and indomitability will all be on display throughout this summer and every summer wherever Australians face the worst that Mother Nature can throw at us.