Courageous communities unite
Tuesday, 25 February 2020
This summer, we have witnessed the devastation of bushfires in the Upper Murray and East Gippsland regions. The similarities to the 1939 Black Friday Bushfires, also a mass conflagration across the east and north east of Victoria 81 years ago, are striking. Many of our local Fire Brigades were formed not long after Black Friday, a result of the 1939 Royal Commission.
Locally this fire season we have been fortunate. I pay tribute to, and thank, our courageous local volunteers of the Yarra Valley and Maroondah CFA Groups and the Lilydale SES Unit, who were away from family over New Year, deployed on strike teams into fire ravaged communities like Sarsfield, Swifts Creek, Mallacoota and Plenty Gorge. Members of the Yarra Ranges Police were also deployed during the bushfires emergency to assist with evacuation of towns and campgrounds, and local timber industry workers used their expertise and equipment to clear roads and debris.
There were amazing efforts locally too. I congratulate Coldstream, Lilydale and Gruyere CFA Brigades for coordinating a massive Fire Donation Appeal, and thanks to our generous community and local businesses who donated new goods and hay bales, and provided the use of warehouses, sheds, forklifts and trucks. Over 100 volunteers helped sort and pack 780 pallets of goods, delivered with $20,000 of store vouchers, by Yarra Valley locals on their own trucks to communities in great need like Buchan and Corryong. Also, congratulations to Rotary Clubs of Lilydale and Wandin for donating proceeds raised from the Lilydale Craft and Produce Market and the Custom Car and Bike Shows respectively, to bushfire affected communities. It’s initiatives like these that capture the very best of the Australian spirit.
We now enter the recovery phase and help those rebuild what they have lost. I recently visited the bushfire affected towns of Corryong, Cudgewa and Tallangatta to hear first-hand from locals. These communities are still coming to terms with the impacts of these bushfires and we must continue to offer them support.
There will be many lessons learned from these events. The role of governments must be reviewed to help minimise the severity of bushfires, including managing and reducing fuels loads which was a key recommendation of the 2009 Black Saturday Royal Commission. There are likely to be some uncomfortable truths, but unless we face them, we will fail in our duty to keep people, property, livestock and wildlife safe.
Again, thank you to everyone in our local community who has helped this fire season.