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Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Page: 292

Mr ANDREWS (MenziesMinister for Social Services) (10:46): Over recent days my home state of Victoria has once again found itself inflicted by the scourge of bushfires. While, thankfully, no lives so far have been lost, the level of property damage has been quite substantial—at least 34 homes destroyed and possibly another 20, once inspections are made. The situation is still in flux, with a number fires—some 18 or so—still raging as we speak. Close to 200,000 hectares of Victoria has been burnt and a score of homes destroyed, several of them in my electorate of Menzies.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit a number of bushfire locations. I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the magnificent response to the crisis by the Country Fire Authority, the Victoria Police, the State Emergency Service and Ambulance Victoria. However, that response has not come without human cost. So far five firefighters have been injured in the line of duty, one of them seriously. Regardless of danger, the courageous men and women of our emergency services have not hesitated to place life and limb at risk in defence of others. Their actions have been a testament to their courage and character. It is due to the efficiency of these agencies that lives have not been lost and more property damage has not occurred. While we are yet to see the end of this current crisis, it is fair to say that the lessons learnt from the Black Saturday bushfires have been well and truly learnt.

It would be remiss if I neglected to mention the non-for-profit organisations that have stepped up to provide succour and support for the victims of this natural disaster. The Australian Red Cross has been particularly noteworthy in this regard. Quick off the mark, the Red Cross has dispatched over 220 staff and volunteers to bushfire-stricken regions of Victoria to provide up-close and personal aid for those afflicted.

The English essayist Samuel Johnson once wrote:

A dversity has ever been considered the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself.

What is true of individuals is also true of societies and communities writ large. We can all be proud of the way in which Victoria's people have responded to the adversity of these bushfires.