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Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Page: 2964


Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (10:24): It is 12 months since Japan was devastated by a nation-changing disaster that rocked the country to its very core but did not dent the will of its people. Japanese people are proud, resilient and strong. They have needed to be over the past year as they pick up the pieces of broken lives and shattered cities, as they mourn for those who never came home and as they look to the future with expectation and with hope.

On 11 March 2011 at 16.46 Australian Eastern Standard Time a massive earthquake and tsunami took 19,000 lives and devastated the landscape. A nationwide minute of silence was observed at 2.46 pm on Sunday 11 March 2012, marking a year since the magnitude 9.0 tremor slammed Tohoku and set off the area's worst tsunami in centuries. Trains stopped running to allow people a moment to pray and to reflect. Flags flew at half-staff. The entire nation fell silent—an eerie happening in such a bustling, vibrant, populous country. It is hard to believe it has been one year. Small rural towns and villages disappeared as the devastating wave engulfed everything, leaving nothing but small remnants indicating that human life had once resided there.

A former Wagga Wagga family was in Fukshima when the earthquake and wave hit. Michael Allen and his family had moved to Japan some years before and considered the now demolished city as their home. Speaking from Tokyo at the time, Mr Allen said he planned to stay in Japan. He told local journalist Ben Higgins at the Daily Advertiser:

We plan to stay ... but it depends on the nuclear situation.

Our home is the epicentre of the disaster ... And there are major concerns over whether we can ever go back.

Mr Allen did not want to abandon the Japanese people in their time of crisis, their hour of need—and that he did not. Many people from Wagga Wagga, from other areas in Australia and from all over the world returned to their devastated areas to help the people of Japan put their lives back together.

Japan is a good friend of the Riverina. Our links are strong; our links are long. We enjoy close associations through tertiary education and food trading. May those ties that bind us continue. May Japan recover as best it can from this dreadful tragedy. And may its people's willpower and courage long endure.