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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10151

Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (18:34): I rise to speak today as we approach the one year anniversary of the 17 October 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires, which caused much disaster and devastation in the region, and to acknowledge the federal government's contributions toward the strengthening and future resilience of disaster-prone communities in the electorate of Macquarie.

The impact of the bushfires was significant: 208 homes were lost with another 191 damaged. These events renewed awareness and respect for the danger posed by fires in our own communities. It is important to note that the Hawkesbury was also affected through this time. People living in both the Blue Mountains and in the Hawkesbury communities understand that these dangers are part of our everyday lives in summer and during the bushfire seasons. But there are steps that can be taken, and are being taken, to promote safety and resilience.

There has been some criticism of governments not doing enough. I said then, and I continue to say now, that it is, and it was not, the time to politicise grief and to keep the vulnerable in a place of vulnerability. Grief cannot be measured and years of belongings and memories cannot be recovered. The loss to homes, families and businesses can hardly be measured or communicated. What we can do is help to build an even stronger and even more resilient community should we face such a situation again. In doing so the federal government, together with the New South Wales state government, recently announced assistance in the form of financial grants toward the recovery and resilience of communities affected by natural disasters under the Natural Disaster Resilience Program known as NDRP and the Flexible Community Grants Program under CatC.

Today, I want to speak about the wonderful organisations that have received grants to continue their great and devoted work in the community and build further resilience. The Natural Disaster Resilience Program, or NDRP, is a disaster mitigation and community resilience competitive grants program jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments. It was announced this month by the Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, and the New South Wales Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Stuart Ayres, that $27 million in funding would be provided through the Natural Disaster Resilience Program. The $27 million will include funding for three programs established under the NDRP: firstly, the Emergency Volunteer Support Scheme; secondly, the Community Resilience Innovation Program; and thirdly, the State Emergency Management Projects program. These are to be delivered over two years and will assist communities in New South Wales in building resistance to natural disasters primarily through a range of mitigation and resilience projects designed to enhance community preparedness.

Locally, in the electorate of Macquarie, I had the pleasure of announcing these grants with my state colleague for the Blue Mountains, Roza Sage. Among potential recipients there are all kinds of natural disaster response services extended to local council and nongovernment organisations. One is the Blackheath Area Neighbourhood Centre to which the Natural Disaster Resilience Program has contributed $90,000 under the Community Resilience Innovation Program's Heads Up For Fire project. Heads Up For Fire will operate in partnership with the Rural Fire Service to establish 40 community hubs. Under the direction of appointed volunteer coordinators, the initiative will build upon an existing volunteer and community-based program to develop a more integrated and coordinated disaster response network. I am pleased to bring this program to the members' attention, as it demonstrates the government's determination to promote, support and equip fire-prone communities for disaster preparedness.

Another recipient in the electorate is the Kurrajong Rural Fire Brigade which has received, through the Emergency Volunteer Support Scheme for 2013-14, a grant of $7,100 towards their training room. The refit will contribute to a more efficient work space for Kurrajong Rural Fire Brigade volunteers to ensure they have the resources they need to carry out their work.

Also under the Emergency Volunteer Support Scheme, the St Albans Rural Fire Service has received a grant of $6,480 towards new training equipment. Specifically, these funds will go towards the purchase of a Smartboard to facilitate community training and awareness in bushfire response and survival. Newer technologies like the Smartboard are highly valuable as a tool for training and information and the St Albans Rural Fire Service will extend their use to survival planning, hazard reduction and related issues.

Allow me to continue on to the Blue Mountains Flexible Community Grants Program. These grants are specifically geared towards community recovery after the devastation of the October 2013 bushfires. The flexible grants program will contribute a total package of $1.8 million to facilitate raising awareness and preparedness among volunteer and community organisations in bushfire prone regions within New South Wales. I would like to share with the House some of these projects included in the first round of flexible community grants within the electorate of Macquarie totalling a joint federal and New South Wales state government contribution up to this point of $704,520.00. The Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise have received a grant of $105,000 towards hosting the Blue Mountains Conference and Expo, as well as an $80,000 grant to assist in local food industry development. These projects focus on economic stimulation, risk mitigation and disaster preparedness so that local businesses achieve greater resilience in the advent of bushfires.

The Blackheath Area Neighbourhood Centre is the recipient of $50,000 towards the employment of a project worker and facilitation of a community network program to raise disaster preparedness. Grants towards the construction of various electronic signage at local schools have been issued as warning devices during disasters and primary communication tools to keep communication members informed and connected.

St Thomas Aquinas Primary School will receive $35,000 towards a remotely managed LED sign. Springwood Public School will receive a grant of $28,756 for electronic signage. Winmalee Public School Parents and Citizens Association will receive $50,000 in funding for solar-powered electronic signage at local Winmalee schools, and a grant of $40,000 has been issued to Mount Victoria Public School for the installation of electronic signage. New technologies like LED and electronic signage will assist in informing, connecting and warning local communities in the incidence of disasters.

In sum, 22 projects were approved for the electorate of Macquarie. The remainder, in brief, include: $13,300 for Leura Village Association's Leura Harvest Festival; $50,000 for the Blue Mountains City Council towards the Yellow Rock Community Space Project; $22,394 to the Mid Mountains Neighbourhood Centre Incorporated for Rebuilding Bushfire Preparedness and Networks in Local Neighbourhood; Blue Mountains Family Support Services Incorporated will receive $12,297 towards developing a sustainable fire related online community for residents; and $33,500 for the Springwood Neighbourhood Centre Cooperative Limited for a fireworks recovery project. Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise will receive $80,000 for local food industry development and the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute will receive $11,000 for an evaluation project on bushfire risk and community strategies. $8,246 will go to Mount Wilson Progress Association Incorporated for bushfire preparedness and risk awareness signage. Mount Victoria Community Association will receive $14,465 for The Crossing Town—On the Edge project and the Mountains Youth Services Team are granted $24,000 for Midnight Basketball Bushfire Recovery Tournaments. Springwood Neighbourhood Centre will receive $29,200 and Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre will receive $27,273. Catholic Care Social Services Parramatta will receive $39,000 for a bushfire financial support worker and Mountains Outreach Community Service will receive $2520 for Mid Mountains Family Fun Day. Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre will receive an additional $7,710 for renewing local economies through business improvement and the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre will receive $20,000 towards information seminars on insurance preparedness.

On behalf of the community I would like to acknowledge the federal government and the state government of New South Wales for their commitment to aid in the recovery and resilience of communities affected by the October 2013 bushfires in the electorate of Macquarie. We look forward to the opportunity of the round 2 competitive grants and I want to encourage the community at large to apply. Together we are investing more in the future of the Blue Mountains, which remains a region of beauty generating attractive tourism and a great lifestyle. But in going on there will be a challenge leading up to the bushfire season 2014.