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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 452


Ms COLLINS (Franklin) (19:25): Can I thank my colleague the member for Lyons, who I know did want to say a lot more but cut his speech short to allow me to speak. Tuesday, 7 February 1967 is etched on the memories of so many Tasmanians. There are so many personal stories because it impacted so many people. It was a hot and windy day, full of drama, full of tragedy; but, as we heard after that day, also full of heroism and resilience. Black Tuesday, sadly, remains one of the Australia's worst bushfire tragedies—half a century after the event. That loss of 64 lives with injuries to 900 more, the loss of homes to more than 7,000 people and the loss of stock and livelihoods is still impacting on Tasmanians. The cost of the destruction on that fateful day in today's dollars is half a billion dollars. Most of south-east Tasmania was alight—110 fires, some of which joined together. They burnt around Hobart city, the suburbs and the regional towns, including mostly in my own electorate, sadly: the towns of Kingston, Blackmans Bay and down in the channel in Middleton, Snug and Electrona and down in the Huon in Huonville, Cygnet and Geeveston—so many towns.

As my colleague the member for Lyons said, the townships of Snug, Middleton and others were virtually wiped out, including the home of my father's family at Snug. My father's family lost their home in Snug and, sadly, I lost my father just four years after that bushfire. There are very few remaining photographs of my father to this day because of that bushfire. Mine is just one of many stories. As the member for Lyons did indicate, I was privileged to be able to attend the memorial services in Snug yesterday. I heard so many stories from people telling me of that dash to save lives, as they bundled their children up. Mothers, who are now old ladies, told me that they had to make such quick decisions about what to take. A woman said to me yesterday that she took just three things: her husband's best suit because he would need that because obviously he would need to go to work; her son's favourite toy because he would need something; and she took a tablecloth that was particularly special to her. She told me that, to this day, that favourite toy is still special to her son and that tablecloth is still special to her because that is all they have remaining from that time. There are so many stories of strangers picking up children and families and people in distress in the street; so many stories of orchard owners sharing their water because many of these towns did not have reticulated water. They could not fight these fires. There were no communications. The telephones poles were down. The power poles were down. Tasmania was cut off.

The south-east corner suffered so badly on that day and people remember it still, like it was yesterday. As you talk to them, you feel their resilience. They have rebuilt. They have rebuilt their lives. They have rebuilt their buildings. They have rebuilt their community. But, still, there is an impact from that day. Their lives were changed on that day because of that tragedy. They are more resilient and they have built a wonderful community in those areas that were affected. But we should never forget what these tragedies do to communities. As we know, yesterday was also the same day, ironically, of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, where there was also that very significant loss of 173 lives. I express my sympathies and condolences to those families. That was eight years ago and I can imagine how they were also remembering yesterday.

I particularly want to put on record my thanks to all the people, the volunteers and the emergency services, who fought then and still fight now to save people and to save property at these times. They have the most difficult job. We do not make it easy. We do not listen to the advice that we are given about clearing around our homes. We still do not listen to the advice that is given out. We are getting better, I would like to say, but it is really important that we learn from these tragedies, that the losses that we have borne as a community are not forgotten and they are not in vain. I put on record my thanks to all of those who assist, including the non-government organisations and the charities that do important work. I hope that never again does Australian have to deal with one of these days. Sadly, I am told, there will be more.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:31