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Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Page: 293

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (10:49): On Friday, 7 February, I travelled to Kinglake to join the community at the Kinglake oval for memorial services to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2009 fires. The 2009 fires are recorded as Australia's most deadly bushfires. Some 173 people lost their lives, hundreds more were injured, over 2,000 homes were destroyed, and 350,000 hectares of land was burnt. I could continue to list the numbers but it does not due justice to the drama, the damage and the trauma that the people in my community of Indi have suffered as a result of these fires, and still suffer.

A number of incredible community groups formed in the aftermath. I had the opportunity on Friday to talk with members of the Firefoxes—these women meet each other at the local relief centre. Their credo was 'what women want', which has now become their guiding principle. The group allows the women to get together and have a few laughs, learn a new skill or hobby, listen to a guest speaker who may educate and inspire them, and work out ways to best help children in their area suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Firefoxes do all these things and much more. They continue to support one another and many other fire-affected communities. On Friday, in Kinglake, a minute's silence was observed at 7 pm. As is common during silences such as these, only the sound of young children—confused as to why everyone was silent—could be heard. Their sounds acted as a gentle reminder to me that these communities do have a future—people are rebuilding and choosing to bring up families in these communities.

We know that fires will continue to affect Australia. For the information of those members whose electorates have been affected by these fires and the current fires in Victoria, I am pleased to document two DVDs that may be useful: When the fire comes was made by the Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House; and Creating a new normal—a journey of recovery from disaster and trauma was produced by the Firefoxes.

I want to thank the people of Kinglake for their warm welcome, particularly Rodney Monk, who welcomed me to his country; Sarah Matthews, executive officer of the Kinglake Ranges Foundation and the coordinator of the memorial service; Michelle Dunscombe, a small business owner and community worker; Gaye Chatfield and Lee McGill from Kinglake Arts Alliance for facilitating the beautiful mandala; musicians Bernard Kennedy and Simon Sutton; and local historian Deidre Hawkins. Finally, I want to thank Kath Stewart, the MC of the memorial service. I will conclude by reading a small part of a poem, Remembrance, that Kath shared with me. It gave me great comfort.

Remember those who have gone,

and who have left us a great heritage

of remembered joy.

They still live in our hearts,

in the happiness we knew,

in the dreams we shared.

Their memory is warm in our hearts,

a comfort in our sorrow.

They are not apart from us,

they are a part of us.

We can shed tears

because they have gone,

or we can smile

because they have lived.

For love is eternal

and those we love are with us