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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 596

Mr ROBB (12:01 PM) —I rise to resume the comments and remarks that I made at the previous sitting. I had just spent some time reflecting on the attitude of all those I represent in an electorate that has been fortunate to avoid these floods and the fires. The fact is that I have never experienced a serious flood myself, but I have twice had to evacuate with my family because of bushfires, once when I was a young fellow on a dairy farm. I remember the trauma of rushing to find those things that we thought were absolutely essential if the house went—all the memorabilia and our favourite things—with five of my brothers and sisters and parents; packing the boot of the FJ Holden; and being taken to a safer place while my father came back to fight the fire. I also remember that one of our neighbours was caught on the dividing fence on our property and was unable to detach himself. The fire swept over and he died. I remember how the death of a neighbour fighting a fire on our property rocked our community, and I feel very strongly for all of those that have lost loved ones during these floods. It is a traumatic experience. The thing is that, once your property has been burnt out and people have lost their lives, it takes an extraordinary amount of time for a community to recover, both economically and emotionally. Whilst many of us will move on to other things—and probably already have moved on to other issues in our own lives—we should not forget that there are tens of thousands of Australians who will be living the experience for a long, long time.

I do not wish to go over each of the flood events, but I would just like to remind the House of the first Victorian floods, if you like, because in some ways they have become the forgotten floods. They occurred last year in September-October, and there was widespread damage. We saw literally hundreds of thousands of hectares affected and millions of dollars of damage done. Friends of mine at Serpentine on the Loddon have now been flooded four times, I think, since that time. They had some of the best crops they had seen in a lifetime and have lost most of them. They have been hit with every flood that has come through, and I think it is now a total of four that have affected their lives. It will set them back a long way. The family consists of parents with their own property and several sons with their properties. They have worked very hard to establish the agricultural ventures that they have, and it has been a really massive blow. So to witness firsthand the impact on friends gives you a sense of the grief that is being caused and that will continue for a long time to come right across Australia as a result of these various floods, the cyclone and the bushfires that have so affected many lives.

Again I offer sympathies, condolences and thoughts on behalf of all of those approximately 140,000 members of my electorate. One thing that has struck me is that right across the Melbourne community—and I suspect it is true right across Australia—I have noticed the way in which the dire circumstances of so many of our fellow Australians have prompted a response in the community which is still ongoing. We had another flood donation event on Saturday night nearby, at our Middle Brighton baths, with competitions and all the rest. A serious amount of money was raised and a very large number of people were in attendance. That is just one of many, many such events that have occurred—almost spontaneously in many cases—across the community, and I think that is true right around Australia. As I talk to colleagues, they have been amazed at the way in which the community has so generously and spontaneously—for some time now—been responding and giving. Hopefully that is some small token for many, many people of the support and the thoughts that go with our fellow Australians on this occasion.