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SA bushfire tragedy weighs heavily on families

SA bushfire tragedy weighs heavily on families

Reporter: Emma Alberici

HEATHER EWART: Residents of South Australia's Eyre Peninsula have only just begun to count the cost
of Tuesday's devastating bushfires. But for some, the loss is overwhelming. Of the nine who died in
the fires, four were children: two-year-old Jack Borlase and his three-year-old sister, Star, who
were caught with their grandmother, Judith Griffith; and 11-year-old Zoe Kay and her 13-year-old
brother, Graham, who died with their mother Jodie, all of whom were trapped in their cars, trying
to flee the flames. But the decision to try to drive to safety was a fatal one, made in fear and
panic. Today, their families were trying to come to terms with the enormity of the tragedy that has
befallen them. Emma Alberici reports.

NATALIE BORLASE: I was at work and Karen, the lady I work with, she said, "Oh, is it raining
outside? It's so dark", and we've looked outside and the whole of Port Lincoln was just covered in
this thick black red smoke. It just put us all in darkness, basically, and I went upstairs to the
CFS headquarters at Port Lincoln and I said to them, "This is where my house is. Are we in any
danger or anything? Do I need to evacuate my home? I've got my mum and dad and my two children
there", and they went and found out and said that it was Phase 1, you are in the danger zone and
you need to make a decision whether you're going to evacuate now or whether you stay.

EMMA ALBERICI: It was what the locals have dubbed Black Tuesday. Natalie Borlase was working in
Port Lincoln when the fires, travelling at speeds of 70 to 100 kilometres an hour, swept through
the small farming community of Wanilla, about 50 kilometres away. That's where her children,
3-year-old Star and 2-year-old Jack, were being looked after by her mother and father, who'd flown
in from Adelaide to spend time with the family on their farm. Panicked about their welfare, Natalie
and her husband Darren, who'd been in hospital with tonsillitis, drove against advice toward home,
towards the flames.

NATALIE BORLASE: We got to the last roadblock, and the police strongly advised us not to go down
there, and I tried to explain to them my situation, and they said, "We can't physically stop you
but we strongly advise you not to", so Darren and I made the decision not to go down, and so we
waited there, and I was just going crazy - I couldn't sit there any longer. This man in this car
just came screaming up behind us and jumped out and started talking to the police as to what he'd
just seen, and I went up to him and I said, "How's Borlase Road? I've got two children and my mum
and dad down there", and he said, "Get in the car", and I just got straight in his car, and we
drove down Borlase Road and there was - everything was just burnt. There's dead kangaroos, dead
rabbits, there's burning trees across the road. He just got out his car and got his gloves on, he's
just throwing them out - he was just amazing. We headed down, and I was looking towards our house
to see whether mum and dad's car was still there, and it wasn't there, and I was so happy, because
I thought they got out, but then the man in the car with me - his name was Stewart Laming, and I'm
so thankful to him - he noticed that there was someone still there, and I turned and looked and
there was our ute and my mum and dad's Land Rover parked there, and my dad was underneath the ute
and badly burned and...


NATALIE BORLASE: Yes, in terrible pain, and then when I got there, I couldn't even believe that he
was still alive. Everything was just charred and he was still alive, and I said to him, "Oh,
where's mum and the kids?", and he said, "They're in there", and he pointed to the Land Rover, and
I had a look, and mum and Star and Jack and our dog were all in the car.

DAMIAN KAY: She rang me early in the morning and said about the fire, and I just said, "Look, pick
up all the pictures and stuff. Don't worry about clothes and all that stuff, just get all the
pictures", and she - I don't know how much longer she stayed for.

JOURNALIST: How did she sound? What was the last words that you said to her?

DAMIAN KAY: Um, basically I just told her not to panic, and I said, "Just get the kids, get the
photos and just leave." The house - the house is rebuildable. She was worried about the house. I
said, "Don't worry about it."

EMMA ALBERICI: That was the last time Damian Kay spoke to his wife. He was in Adelaide, well away
from the destruction that claimed nine lives on the Eyre Peninsula. Jodie Russell-Kay gathered her
children, Zoe and Graham, and got in the family car, attempting to escape the inferno that was
approaching their home in Poonindie.

DAMIAN KAY: I went lookin' for her. I told her to go down to the beach or go to Tumbi, 'cause the
road was blocked to get in to Lincoln, so she was goin' out to Tumbi. They reckon the smoke has
just got too much - she just veered off.

EMMA ALBERICI: With virtually no visibility, the car veered across a paddock into trees, and in a
matter of minutes, Damian Kay lost both his children and his wife.

DAMIAN KAY: Not too many people can say that they've found their soul mate, but I did. She was -
she was my life force. She had a hell of a laugh. She would always - she was the strong one for us.
She always kept me in check. I always joked that I used to be the head of security at the roughest
pub in Port Lincoln and I was scared of two people: one's me wife and the other one's me mother.

NATALIE BORLASE: My mum was so loyal to her family. She would go to the end of the earth for me,
her kids, her husband, the whole family. It was a very close family. And yeah, they will be missed,
very much.

EMMA ALBERICI: This was the Borlase farm on Borlase Road before the fire, and this is what it looks
like today. The property has been run by the family for more than 50 years. How do you recover when
so much is gone?

NATALIE BORLASE: Star, she was 3. She was turning 4 on the 25th of this month, and she was just
amazing. She - I think that she probably could have succeeded in anything that she chose to do. She
had something about her that people were drawn to. She was - yeah, she was beautiful and very
precious. Jack - well, he was 2, and he was - yeah, he was just amazing as well. I have two very
strong personalities for children. He loved farming. He was right into that, loved the men things
to do, like riding on the motorbike, and you know, he'd sit in the header with Darren, just harvest
for hours and hours and never complain. I left for work that morning and he was sitting at the
table having his breakfast, and I said, "Bye-bye, Jack", and gave him a kiss, and he said,
"Bye-bye, mummy", and he gave me an extra special long one, and I just - yeah, I won't forget that.
That was beautiful. My mum used to always say to me, "You've always gotta give a kiss goodbye. You
just never know what would happen", and at the times when you don't have children, you probably
don't understand how important that is, but you just have to say goodbye and you've gotta give them
that kiss, because you just don't know when the last time is gonna be the last time.

EMMA ALBERICI: There are only six properties left standing in the Wanilla district. Trying to get
on with a life without loved ones is only made harder with the loss of livelihoods too.

DARREN BORLASE: It's just been fantastic, the amount of help that we've got from friends and
family. A mate of mine, Chad Glover, has just taken over the role of looking after the farm and
shifting sheep and dealing with badly burnt sheep.

NATALIE BORLASE: For anyone that's facing a fire, I think you need to decide, you know, do you
protect your house or do you go? And me personally, I would evacuate, because, um, it's your loved
ones that mean the most to me, and it's not until you lose them do you understand that all those
material items don't mean anything at all.

HEATHER EWART: Emma Alberici with that report.

Latham under doctor's orders

Latham under doctor's orders

Reporter: Heather Ewart

HEATHER EWART: After days of intense speculation about his health and scrutiny of his leadership,
Mark Latham has finally gone public about his future. Late today, the Opposition Leader's office
issued this statement: "The news about my health has not been good. I have been told to rest and
not to work, advice I am trying to follow. Over the past fortnight, I've tried to take a total
break, do a few simple things with my family and make the best recovery possible. Notwithstanding
the obvious difficulties now, on the advice of my doctors and after consultation with my
colleagues, I will continue this approach. I have spent this period with my family, including some
time at Terrigal, where I was mostly confined to our unit." He goes on to express sympathy for the
victims of the Asian tsunami and the South Australian bushfires. The statement concludes: "I have
been told to stay on leave and will not return to work until my leave period ends on January 26."
Well, to elaborate on the statement, a short time ago, I spoke to Mark Latham's friend and
confidante, Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon.

HEATHER EWART: Joel Fitzgibbon, at no point in this statement does Mark Latham state categorically
that he's staying on in the top job. Why not?

JOEL FITZGIBBON (LABOR FRONTBENCHER): Well, I had a long conversation with him today, and I was
very pleased that he'd come to the conclusion that, taking all the advice available to him, that
he'd be fit and well to continue duties on January 26. I think this thing's already been risen
above its importance, and I suppose he didn't want to pour any more fire on the flames. He just
simply wanted to indicate that he had intended or is intending to resume duties on January 26, as
he always planned to do.

HEATHER EWART: So he does want and plan to stay on in the top job?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Oh, he was quite upbeat today. He's recovered substantially, feeling much better,
and he's more than confident, on all the advice available to him, that with a little bit more rest
over the next couple of weeks or so, he'll be more than fit and able to continue duties and show
the same sort of energy we've known him to expend in the past.

HEATHER EWART: But that's the other thing that was lacking in the statement. We have no medical
bulletin on his actual state of health. Now, isn't that what the public and the rest of the party
were led to believe they were going to be getting in the statement?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, Mark's indicated to me that, based on all the advice available, that he
should be able to and will be able to resume duties from Australia Day on.

HEATHER EWART: What is his state of health?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, this is his second event, of course, and he was hopeful and the family was
hopeful that it would be a one-off event. It wasn't, and a second event is always of concern to the
medical practitioners. But after seeking wider advice, he's confident and we're all confident that,
managed properly, there's no reason why he can't make a full recovery and return to work from
January 26 onwards.

HEATHER EWART: Why didn't he make this clear in the very beginning, when he first became aware of
the problem soon after Christmas? Why wasn't there a statement then?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, hindsight is 20/20 vision. I mean, politicians generally don't like to wear
ill health on their shirtsleeve. People use it against you and start to bring into question your
capacity to continue on with the job. He just hoped that he could go on the leave that he'd
planned, recover, no-one would have been the wiser and he would have returned back to work on
January 26, as planned. Unfortunately, the tsunami intervened, a tragic event, and you know, that
started to raise questions about why he hadn't made a statement, and I suppose that's where it got
a little bit messy.

HEATHER EWART: At the very least, would you say there have been some serious errors of judgment

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I think in hindsight, again, that's very, very easy. Jenny Macklin made a
statement soon after the tsunami disaster, and you might recall that it was some time after Boxing
Day when all of us really - until all of us really started to appreciate the gravity of the event.
By then, Jenny had already made her statement, and Mark saw no need to come out with a second

HEATHER EWART: But even if you're bed-ridden, with such a major disaster like that, isn't it
possible still to just pick up a phone and dictate a few lines to your office in Canberra and have
a statement issued?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, true, but at the time, I'm sure Mark was conscious of the possibility that,
Jenny having made a statement on behalf of the party, some might see his arrival back from holidays
and out of the sick bed as possibly an opportunity to secure some sort of political gain from what
is a significant human tragedy, and at the time, as I said, Jenny had made the statement on behalf
of the party; she was acting leader; he wanted to express confidence in her, and he saw no need to
do it again.

HEATHER EWART: If he was so sick - and I don't doubt that you say he was very sick - how could he
then be seen at a poolside at a holiday resort?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, Mark had planned a holiday in Terrigal prior to Christmas, and the kids were
keen and excited about going to Terrigal. Unfortunately, they weren't able to go because Mark was
simply too sick; he was still confined to bed. A couple of days after they were due to go on
holidays, he was able to get out of bed. Janine, his wife, sensibly said, "Well, why can't I pack
you in the car, get you off to Terrigal, get the kids out of the house, I can get them to the beach
and around the pool, and you can recuperate in Terrigal", and it was a pretty sensible thing to do.

HEATHER EWART: Many of his colleagues over the past week, and frontbenchers here, are describing
all of this behaviour as bizarre, and the way that all of this has been handled has given them
alarm bells about the errors of judgment they consider that he's made and therefore his capacity to
be a good leader. What's your response to that?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, I concede the media management could have been better handled, but all the
caucus members I speak to, including frontbenchers, have only expressed concern about his
well-being, and today they've been very pleased to learn that he's going to make a full recovery
and he will be back to work in the not-too-distant future.

HEATHER EWART: But the party gives every appearance - I'm sure you would have to accept this, with
all the newspaper headlines and media coverage - of being a party in disarray.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, it's the silly season, Heather, and I suspect that not so much attention
would have been paid to Mark Latham if we'd been in a busier period of the year. But that's been
the case, and that's not been helpful. But Mark's keen to get on with it, and he was elected
unopposed by the caucus only a few months ago, and my view is that he still maintains the
overwhelming majority support of the caucus.

HEATHER EWART: Did he consider this week resigning from his position?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, he did have to consider very thoroughly whether the ailment was going to be
in any way an impediment to him properly executing his duties, and it was appropriate for him to do
so. That's why he took plenty of time, and he's taken that time, he's sought advice wisely, he has
consulted family, and he's convinced that it will not be an impediment, and if he takes his time
with it, he will recover fully and he will come back fit and well.

HEATHER EWART: But is he now, in effect, a lame-duck leader, as some in the party are saying?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, that's not my assessment. I have talked to many caucus colleagues this week,
and as I said, they were really concerned about his well-being, all sorts of rumours going about
about his fate, and I sense a real strength of support in the caucus, and I'm confident that will

HEATHER EWART: Joel Fitzgibbon, thank you for joining us.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Thanks, Heather.

Australian water filters to provide drinking water for tsunami survivors

Australian water filters to provide drinking water for tsunami survivors

Reporter: Matt Peacock

HEATHER EWART: As aid starts flowing to the areas hardest hit by the Boxing Day tsunami, relief
agencies are now working frantically to prevent outbreaks of disease caused by the lack of safe
drinking water. With any source of fresh water in the affected areas completely contaminated, the
danger of water-borne diseases such as cholera sweeping through the communities is growing day by
day. That's where a push by Clean Up Australia Chairman Ian Kiernan might come into its own. He's
assembled a team of volunteers and corporate sponsors to urgently assemble and distribute hundreds
of Australian-designed low-tech water filters. Matt Peacock reports.

MATT PEACOCK: After the first wave, the next potential disaster.

RICK BRENNAN (VOLUNTEER DOCTOR): Diarrhoea is certainly the main condition right now, and that's
related to poor sanitation and poor water conditions. All the water sources here are contaminated.

MATT PEACOCK: A rotting sea of sewage and sludge has poisoned any wells or streams within its
reach. In places like Aceh, providing safe drinking water is a major priority for the international
humanitarian effort. Thousands of miles away, here at Sydney's Taronga Park Zoo, the irrepressible
Ian Kiernan believes that he may have an answer to the water crisis.

IAN KIERNAN (CHAIRMAN, CLEAN UP THE WORLD): The water goes in here, through this membrane, and then
comes out here, by gravity. No electricity.

MATT PEACOCK: The Clean Up Australia founder is back, hustling support for a low-tech solution to
avert a bigger Asian tragedy.

IAN KIERNAN: The first waves of death have a very good chance of being followed by a bigger wave of
death through pollution delivered through drinking water or non-potable drinking water. So what we
want to do is to apply the best of our practical minds, through our team, to look at how we can use
this technology, some of this technology that is here, in a low-tech sense, to provide these
people, our friends in South East Asia, with safe drinking water.

MATT PEACOCK: It's here at the Sydney zoo, eight years ago, that Ian Kiernan cobbled together
sponsors to apply a groundbreaking Australian technique to purify waste water.

IAN KIERNAN: It does up to 250,000 litres of water that was previously polluted water that was
dumping in Sydney Harbour. It's now producing 250,000 litres of clean water that is deployed in the
zoo for the animals to drink, to swim in, to flush out their cages and to flush the toilets.

MATT PEACOCK: The technology used was invented by Memcor, originally an Australian company now
owned by the German giant Siemens, and the key is this special membrane that filters the water.

BRUCE BILTOFT (GENERAL MANAGER, MEMCOR): The process is based on microporous hollow fibre
membranes, which are essentially drinking straws with a microporous wall structure. We pass the
dirty water - and this is some water from the local creek here at Windsor - across the membrane
surface to produce a clean, filtered water which we then disinfect with some chlorine.

MATT PEACOCK: And this is what they got out. Memcor now makes large fully automated purification
plants like this one at its Windsor factory. Already, says General Manager Bruce Biltoft, it's
shipping them out to tsunami-hit areas.

BRUCE BILTOFT: We're manufacturing six units that will travel to Thailand, where we've deployed a
team to do that in very quick time - in just over two weeks. They will be set up and sent to the
south of Thailand into the areas that require relief for drinking water.

MATT PEACOCK: Three years ago, Memcor's former employee Rhett Butler came up with this much smaller
portable version of the technology, specifically for use in developing countries through his
not-for-profit Skyjuice project.

RHETT BUTLER (SKYJUICE FOUNDATION): The Skyjuice units are small potable drinking water units based
on membrane technology. We're working with accredited NGOs and aid agencies throughout Asia, Africa
and Bangladesh to provide safe, pure drinking water.

MATT PEACOCK: And it's the small units that could prove crucial in these next few weeks in the
tsunami-stricken areas, where health authorities are now fearing that the lack of clean drinking
water could lead to epidemics that might eclipse the original death toll.

RHETT BUTLER: I think it's going to be very crucial, because we know, after these types of natural
disasters, water-borne diseases - cholera, typhoid, these things - will take hold. So clean, pure,
potable water will be an important consideration in the future.

MATT PEACOCK: There's no doubt that the membrane technology works. Here, on the electron
microscope, you can see the fibre and, under magnification, the water impurities that it's
filtered. If Ian Kiernan succeeds, the smaller units will be on their way as tsunami aid within

IAN KIERNAN: Our plans are to put together 300 of these units and the bigger units, which we're
starting on this week, and then to deliver them to Aceh, to Sri Lanka, to Thailand, to the rest of
Indonesia, on a case-by-case basis, looking at hospitals, looking at the military, looking at even
small responsible communities so that they can then ensure, through their own management, safe,
clean drinking water.

RHETT BUTLER: We believe that, particularly in those affected areas, the technology here can be
used very quickly, very readily, and there are a number of hot spots, particularly in Sri Lanka and
Indonesia, where the units can be used very quickly and with no operating costs.

HEATHER EWART: That report from Matt Peacock.

Health lessons learned from 21-year scientific study

Health lessons learned from 21-year scientific study

Reporter: Genevieve Hussey

HEATHER EWART: For the past two decades, scientists have been tracking the health and well-being of
7,500 Queensland children in a unique long-term study. It's rather like a scientific version of the
documentary series '7 Up'. Every few years, researchers revisit the participants to check their
growth and record their thoughts on life. Now, those chosen to take part in the study as babies are
coming of age, turning 21, and the data they've provided is giving valuable insights into just why
some children are healthier than others. Genevieve Hussey reports.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Two decades ago, more than 7,000 Queensland babies became part of an unusual
experiment. Scientists have been monitoring their well-being ever since to determine how the
crucial development years of early childhood can have a lifelong effect on your health.

kind of research. For once, we can look at people well down the road, through adulthood, and look
at the formative experiences they've had and ask: how can we do things differently?

followed up after the birth of their children, about three to five days later; six months later,
five years later, 14 years later, and we're just now finishing the 21-year follow-up.

LAVERNE LASIJCZUK (MOTHER): Probably by about three months, we knew we had some serious sort of
problems. She had chronic kidney infection. She did start to turn bluish-purple round her lips and
her fingernails and her toenails.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: In 1983, Laverne Lasijczuk agreed to let her daughter Melody become part of the
health study being run by the University of Queensland and Mater Mothers Hospital in Brisbane. Her
childhood was marred by serious health problems.

MELODY LASIJCZUK (STUDY PARTICIPANT): My lungs have always been bad. I've always got every sort of
flu that comes around, and then it just drags on for months with a cough and sort of keeps you from
going out and doing some of the things you want to do.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Last year, when Melody Lasijczuk turned 21, she was interviewed, measured and
weighed for the latest follow-up. The information she's provided adds to a huge database that's
helping researchers work out what parents and society need to do to keep children healthy.

LAVERNE LASIJCZUK: I'd say that there is a lot of luck involved. I mean, Melody has two older
siblings, and the other two are very healthy.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: While luck is often involved, the study confirmed that some children get a better
start in life than others.

ROSEMARY AIRD: The people on lower incomes, the children may tend to have more health problems,
maybe more difficulties in their behaviour, that kind of thing. But when we looked at things like
single parenthood, single mums have done very, very well with their kids, and really, one of the
main things that came out is that it's parents that are having really big problems, a lot of
conflict, that affects children more than anything else.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Anita Satmari believes in part her good health stems from a positive family
environment during her childhood.

ANITA SATMARI (STUDY PARTICIPANT): We stick together as a family, so we are a stable family.
Basically, everyone still lives at home, and our parents are still together, so it is a stable
family, and we communicate all the time, so...

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: That's been a really important part of your life?


GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: The health study has recorded Anita Satmari's growth from birth onwards. Her
mother says good genes and an interest in sport have also played a part in her development.

SUE SATMARI (MOTHER): With her doing gymnastics, tennis, netball - I think tae kwon do, her father
got her into, and swimming, she loves, so I think that may have contributed to sort of the building
up of her muscles and her strength.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Professor Jake Najman has been monitoring these children from the start. As the
study has progressed, his interest in investigating mental as well as physical health has grown.

PROFESSOR JAKE NAJMAN: For me, it's compelling. It's totally compelling. You look at someone at 21
who, say, has a dependence on alcohol or is using illicit drugs or has a serious mental illness or
is violent and been perhaps already in prison, and you look back through 21 years of that person's
life; you've collected data periodically, and you look at the range of things that have happened to
that person and the ways that person's responded, and you can actually look at the pathway through
which that person has gone to end up where they are.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Professor Najman believes the study highlights the need for early intervention
from a young age.

PROFESSOR JAKE NAJMAN: Probably the most outstanding finding is that children who have a mental
health problem that you can detect at the age of 5 are children who often - not always, but often -
have a similar mental health problem when they get to 21.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: For those whose lives form the basis of the study's findings, seeing results that
will help others makes it worth while.

ANITA SATMARI: To help other children with probably learning difficulties or disabilities, even
health reasons, so hopefully something out of that.

LAVERNE LASIJCZUK: We sort of hoped that by being involved, it would help children in the future.
Because it's such an ongoing study and it goes for such a long period of time, you have a chance to
see how maybe different lifestyles even affect different health patterns.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Researchers hope the study will continue for years to come.

ROSEMARY AIRD: We had amazing stories where either the mum or the child had passed away prior to
this follow-up, and those people were still really happy to participate, which was quite amazing,
which we really, really appreciated, and we had a couple of mums who had terminal diseases and told
us to get the questionnaires out within a couple of weeks because they probably wouldn't be around
otherwise, and they were really keen to fill it in.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: As these children grow older, it appears there are still plenty of questions to
be asked and answered.

PROFESSOR JAKE NAJMAN: Wouldn't it be interesting to know what these people's jobs are like, what
their careers become, what kind of relationships they have, what happens to their children? The
longer you go, the more interesting it becomes. I'm expecting that, long after I'm out of the
project, there'll be others who will want to continue it.

HEATHER EWART: Genevieve Hussey reporting there.