House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Statements by Members

Gippsland Electorate: Bushfire

4:37 pm

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to pay tribute to the people of Gippsland, who have rallied to show their support for Black Saturday bushfire victims and their families on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. The recovery of my community has been nothing short of heroic over the past 12 months and there are many positive stories to tell. I stress that there is still a long way to go and governments will need to support the community in the years ahead, but the 12-month anniversary provides several examples of the community remaining united and determined to move forward.

As Victorians gathered to reflect on the tragedy, there were three events in Gippsland which stood out for me. The most public event was the ecumenical service attended by several hundred people at the Monash University auditorium in Churchill. In gathering to pay tribute to the 11 victims, the community sent a message to their families and their friends that they will be here to support them for the long haul of recovery that lies ahead. Those who perished on Black Saturday in Gippsland were Alan and Miros Jacobs and their son, Luke; Martin Schultz; Colin and David Gibson; Trudy Martin; Annette Leatham; Fred and Scott Frendo; and Nathan Charles. The service was primarily organised by the Latrobe City Council to recognise those individuals and it struck the right chord with the community. It was reflective and respectful of the deceased but filled with hope for the future.

The resilience of our community has certainly been tested, but we have risen from the ashes. It is on that theme that I pay tribute also to the Traralgon South community, particularly the local CFA members, for their efforts in establishing a permanent memorial for bushfire victims and their families. The ‘Phoenix Rising from the Ashes’ sculpture was unveiled on 7 February before a crowd of about 100 local residents. It is always risky to single out individuals for praise, but it was an outstanding community effort to establish this memorial. I do admire the efforts of Benn Frederiksen, who designed the phoenix, and Wayne Simmons, who got the job of installation and presentation of the finished product. It is a magnificent reminder of the tragedy and the hardships that have been endured, but it also fills your heart with hope and promise for the future.

There is one other event that I would like to mention. Six students from the Traralgon Secondary College decided that they wanted to do something themselves to honour the bushfire victims. The students attended the Snowy River Campus of the School for Student Leadership in the aftermath of the bushfires last year. During their nine-week stay at the Marlo school, the students were required to develop what is called a community leadership program. That involves taking back something that they have learnt from the school camp and making a contribution within their own community.

On Saturday, I helped to unveil the memorial garden that the students have created at Traralgon South under their community leadership program. At a time when young people receive a lot of negative press, it was a pleasure to be on hand with the students to congratulate them, their families, their friends and the local businesses which contributed by sponsoring the garden’s development. I would like to publicly congratulate Abigail Livingstone, Grace McLachlan, Hayley Batchelor, Ben Wass, Ema Rasmussen and Ashley Chappel for their outstanding efforts on behalf of their community. They had the empathy, the respect and the compassion to want to do something to support our bushfire affected communities. They had the energy and the enthusiasm to pursue their project, and they had the determination and the resilience to actually finish the project. I congratulate all the students for demonstrating the type of leadership we want to instil in young people right across Australia.