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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5208

Senator STEPHENS (8:31 PM) —I rise this evening to join my Senate colleagues in extending my deep sympathies to those whose friends and family members have been killed or injured in the bombings in Bali. In particular, I feel for those who are still waiting for news of their loved ones. It must be incredibly distressing and painful to have someone you care for missing under these circumstances, particularly seeing the images that have been on the news over the past few days. My thoughts and prayers are with them all.

They are also with those in the communities that have been profoundly affected by the events. Several of those who are missing or injured or killed are from Forbes, Wagga Wagga, Leeton and other New South Wales regional communities. Everyone who knows someone who was in Bali during these bombings will be affected by this, not only families and friends of the victims but also those who worked or studied with them— those who saw them every day. The situation is exacerbated in smaller communities, in which no-one remains unaffected. In Forbes in particular, there will be few people who do not either know or know someone who knows those members of the Platupi rugby union team who were holidaying in Bali when these terrible bombings took place. Due to the coincidence of this attack with the end of the sporting seasons, some communities have been hit particularly hard. I am thinking of another rugby team, the Coogee Dolphins. Five of their number are missing, and this is a terrible blow for other members of the team, their friends, supporters and families. And of course there is the Western Australian team from the town of Kingsley, many of whose members are still searching for some of their contingent missing in Bali.

Clearly, we are all affected by these events. The sudden and violent death of innocent people is always difficult to comprehend. We all try to understand what it would be like to lose someone in this way, and the closer the tragedy is to us the more we feel it. We all know someone who has been to Bali—many of us have been ourselves—and I can assure the families and friends of victims that the thoughts of all Australians are with you.

I would like to congratulate and offer my support to the many people who have worked so hard under such difficult circumstances to help those who have been injured in the bombings, particularly those involved in the terrible task of recovering and identifying the deceased. They include those health professionals and others who were in Bali at the time and who have volunteered their services. As well, health professionals in Australia have rushed to help. I acknowledge the contributions of the staff at the Royal Darwin Hospital, which have been outlined so fully by Senator Crossin this evening, of those at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and of the burns unit at Concord Hospital, as well as the contributions of those at St George, Westmead, the Prince of Wales, the Royal North Shore and Sydney hospitals. The Royal Perth Hospital, which has a specialist burns network, has been treating patients, and doctors and nurses have been sent from Princess Alexandra Hospital in Queensland, which has also dispatched Royal Flying Doctor Service planes to Darwin. Staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have also been working around the clock, answering more than 17,500 calls in the past few days. Emergency Management Australia and the Department of Defence have been at the forefront in providing both practical and logistical support.

The airlines have reacted impressively too, and I would like to congratulate Qantas on its assistance in transporting people out of Bali to Australia and also for agreeing to transport the bodies of the deceased victims at no cost. Australians always make us proud in the face of a disaster and have done so here: Australians have reacted swiftly and selflessly to help the victims. We also owe an immense debt of gratitude to the Balinese working and volunteering both within the hospitals and at the site of the bombings in Bali. We also acknowledge of course that this tragedy has touched many Indonesians who have lost family and friends. These bombings will have no small impact on Bali, something which we should not forget or underestimate.

This Sunday the victims of the bombings will be remembered in a national day of mourning. I encourage all Australians to participate and to take this opportunity to mourn, to reflect on what has happened and to support the members of our communities who have been most directly affected by these tragic events.