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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1735

Mr BYRNE (4:05 PM) —I rise in the debate about the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2010-2011 and cognate bill to talk in particular about residents in my constituency of Holt. I note that there is an appropriation with respect to flooding. I would like to talk about my experiences with recent flooding and the incredible resilience of the community that I represent. The community that I represent gets some pretty interesting press. There was a young fellow, Corey, who ran a house party and got a bit of attention; there is a television series that basically has a couple of characters at Fountain Lakes, but it is in fact the Fountain Gate shopping centre. If you surveyed my constituents about how they felt about being portrayed in that sort of light I think you would find a very interesting response. Let’s say, I do not think you would be selling many copies at the Fountain Gate JB Hi-Fi or Fountain Gate Dick Smith shop. But, as I said, I want to talk about the resilience of my community, not in the way in which it is conveniently portrayed in the national media but in focusing on their courage and tenacity when they come together and show the enormous community spirit which epitomises my area, particularly with respect to the flooding that has occurred substantially in my electorate.

On Friday, 4 February and Saturday, 5 February several suburbs in my electorate of Holt—Narre Warren, Narre Warren South, Lyndhurst, portions of Berwick, Hampton Park and Cranbourne North—were amongst Melbourne’s worst affected by a rare storm event caused by the tail of Cyclone Yasi. At Lyndhurst in my electorate more than 180 millimetres of rain fell within a 24-hour period. The deluge was such an extraordinary and extreme event that, according to a preliminary assessment by Melbourne Water, it was described as a one-in-500-years event rather than a one-in-100-years event. There is no doubt that this summer has been defined by natural disasters and national tragedy. It is very difficult to forget the images of cars flying down the streets of Toowoomba and hearing the incredible heart-rending stories of those who were lost and those who were saved.

In terms of the flooding that occurred, I want to talk about the incredible community spirit that was displayed when local volunteers and residents helped those in need when the severe storms hit our community. It has not been written about much, but the floods caused enormous damage to our community. However, it was amazing to see the community spirit of the people in the flood affected areas, like Narre Warren and Hampton Park—seeing neighbours helping others in need, even when they had been flooded themselves. The floods were not of the scale of those in Queensland but they affected 545 households, 10 aged-care facilities and senior citizens facilities and 364 businesses. It impacted on local schools, local sporting facilities, parks, roads and community facilities. Some homes in Holt still remain uninhabitable or unsafe to live in. Many roads, footpaths and fences are damaged. The terrifying nature and the rapidity of events that occurred resulted in some of my constituents being trapped in cars or homes, not knowing when the rain was going to stop. That was an incredibly dramatic experience for everybody. I will talk about how that was relayed by the social media a little bit later in my speech.

I am most proud of the volunteers and the residents in my community. As I said, without question they came to the aid of others in need even when they had been flooded themselves. For example, one of my constituents, Joan Crilly from Hampton Park, was particularly affected by a stormwater drain at the front of her house. She had been called and told that there was flooding in her street, so she drove down to her street. She could not get terribly far because a lot of it was underwater. She waded through the water to get into her house and the water was flooding through her property. The amazing thing that occurred was that people, even in the midst of this fairly treacherous situation, could see that there was a stormwater drain that was blocked. These people materialised out of nowhere, even though their own homes had been flooded, and tried to rip the tops off the stormwater drains so that the water could get through. It just epitomised the spirit of the people of Hampton Park.

You could read on Facebook, for example, that people whose homes had been flooded were walking into their neighbours’ homes to help clear out the flooding and assess the level of flooding damage. As I said, it is a very rare community spirit and something that I think epitomises the quality of the people who live in Hampton Park.

I cannot go without talking about the efforts of the Narre Warren SES unit, which was one of the busiest in the state on the weekend the storm hit. They received 684 calls for assistance just in that weekend alone. With the help of local CFA branches, the Narre Warren SES unit rescued dozens of people from flooded cars and assisted with the evacuation of an entire retirement centre. The SES has always been active in handing out information about what to do in emergency situations and this certainly came in handy both before and afterwards.

In particular, the efforts of Narre Warren unit coordinator, Tim Howell, and his dedicated team of volunteers were incredible. I know that many of these volunteers worked throughout the night responding to dozens of calls for assistance from residents, private nursing homes and many other businesses. As I said, we as a community are incredibly indebted to them for assisting those who were affected.

Madam Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou, being on Facebook yourself, I am sure you would have seen that Facebook is a pretty valuable tool for communication—never more so than when your community is being flooded. I live in Endeavour Hills, which is not far away from where a lot of the severe flooding occurred. One of the most extraordinary things I found was that when I was going home I was instantaneously getting updates about how severe the flooding was in suburbs like Hampton Park, in bits of Cranbourne and Narre Warren. It is an amazing medium, particularly when it is used like that. As I said, it brings the community together in almost a global village.

It was fantastic as a local federal member of parliament to see people who I was connected to via Facebook communicating what was occurring there. Some of that information was being accessed by emergency services as well. It was amazing to see the Youtube clips of the Hampton Park shopping centre where the rivers were running through the shopping centre towards the roads. It is an incredibly valuable tool that is being used. We have seen the value of Twitter and Facebook overseas, but they are also incredibly useful in situations like the floods that occurred in the region around Hampton Park. There is one particular person I wanted to acknowledge, Michele Halsall, who is an established and valued member of the Hampton Park community. She created the Casey floods Facebook page. It allowed people to instantaneously hook on, whether they were Facebook friends or not, so that they could communicate and see what was occurring.

What also occurred, and what I think is quite extraordinary, is that following the scenes of devastation we saw in Queensland, a local Casey Cares flood benefit concert was organised for 12 February. The organising committee of the flood benefit concert was led by Casey Deputy Mayor, Wayne Smith, who is a councillor for the ward and someone who is deeply committed to his community. He formed a committee. This group of people symbolised the charitable and generous nature of the residents of Holt. Inspired by the heart-wrenching scenes of the devastation in Queensland and in northern Victoria, they set about raising much-needed funds by organising a special benefit concert. Ironically, the committee had no idea that our community would be affected by flooding and the venue that was chosen to stage the fundraising event was itself flooded.

This did not dampen the spirits of the committee and the 100 performers who volunteered to participate in the concert. The concert was moved to the Cranbourne Community Theatre. I am proud of the fact that not even a flooded venue could stop our local community from banding together in support of flood victims across the country. To be in attendance at the concert, which was run on the evening of 12 February, was a great honour. I was also extremely proud that more than $7,000 was raised at this sold-out venue. This included the $1,000 donation presented to the mayor on the night of the concert by the Hampton Park Progress Association.

In addition, $12,000 was also donated to support the victims of the Victorian and Queensland floods by the city of Casey, and I wish to acknowledge the council for this contribution. I am also—as I was, particularly, during that evening—in awe of Holt’s home-grown talent. Performers like Madison Pritchett, Andrew Swift, the Casey Choir and many others were truly amazing, and showed that the arts are alive and well in Holt. The solo number delivered by Chelsea Wall deserves particular mention. Her home was badly damaged by knee-deep floodwater; nevertheless, she continued to go to rehearsals and participate. To have such a high standard of artistic talent and professional dedication on show again made me particularly proud to be the local federal member.

In speaking about that, I want to turn my attention to recognising two important events that occurred within the Holt electorate. The Community Spirit and Leadership Awards were held on 8 December. Forty-one students from schools across the area were recognised at an awards ceremony held at the Casey council chamber. This awards ceremony was attended by over 250 people, including parents, teachers and supporters. The awards recognised the outstanding contribution made by the students, and the difference that their contribution, hard work and dedication have made in their schools and our local community. The testimonials from the schools nominating the students were truly outstanding and tell of the great work done by our kids and the strong sense of community spirit that they have.

One of the award recipients helped plan and organise a fundraiser for a fellow student with a disability which raised $13,000 towards essential walking equipment. Another recipient had helped rescue a four-year-old boy who had fallen into a public swimming pool, even though she herself was not a very good swimmer. She went to the bottom of the pool and pulled the boy to safety. There were many other similarly impressive testimonials, ranging from organising fundraisers for a less fortunate family whose house had burnt down to collecting food each day for school breakfasts.

Importantly, this awards ceremony gave me the chance to say thanks to these students on behalf of the community and to let them know how proud we are of them. I am going to read through their names because I think they deserve to be acknowledged. So I would like to acknowledge these very impressive young Holt constituents: Moesha Attard, Lexie Harris, Carissa Nettleton, Dharna Nicholson-Bux, Nyamboum Ruei, Daniel Cooper, Shoana Davenport-Stilo, Joel Shaw, Dean Kemp, Jean-Pierre Hanna, Renesha Siemeniak, Nathan Usher, Zoe Flight, Natalie Wickens, Joshua Strachan, Molisi Tu Inauvai, Phoebe Grothaus, Oleg Glazunov, Stacey Beach, Daniel Ando, Sophie Wieckmann, Shona Morrison, Madeline Nelson, Nevena Djuric, Zoe Stopher, Jessica Schuyler, Jamie Rundle, Samantha Herholdt, Sam Crotty, Jesse Caminiti, Molly McLean, Mitchell Dunne, Isabella Zygouras, Emma Seal, Daniel Marquison, Karena McNeely, Douglas Dias, Timothy Riley, Daniel Martin, Olivier Permal, Sitarah Mohammadi, Bridget Bugeja, Dylan Cavalot and Joshua Dodgson. There are a lot of names there, but they deserve to be acknowledged because of the contribution they have made to our community. As I said at the start of my presentation, on a national level the community does get some pretty bad PR. But it would be pretty good if the national media sometimes paid attention to the quality of the young people we actually have in our community.

The Holt Australia Day awards at Hampton Park on Australia Day were amazing, as they were in Doveton. There were a couple of young people that I particularly wanted to mention from amongst the large number of people who received awards—it is ironic that we held the Hampton Park Community Spirit awards in the Hampton Park Reserve, given that the reserve was effectively underwater a few days later on 4 and 5 February as a consequence of the flooding. One of those young people was a young man called Anthony Bickham, who bravely rushed into a burning house to help a woman and her daughter. He rescued them and brought them to safety.

As I said to you, Holt is a growth area. A lot of young families come here to create and live the Australian dream. They bring their families out here. They are trying to create prosperity not just for their family but for their children and their children’s children. It is a great honour to represent this constituency. When you hear the stories of the courage, the commitment, the resilience and the contribution made by the people of Holt, you realise that Holt is the best electorate in Australia.