Thursday, 4 February 2021
Western Australia: Bushfires
Residents throughout parts of my electorate are currently facing two emergencies: the first is obviously a COVID-19 lockdown, and the second is a bushfire emergency. The bushfire has, sadly, so far destroyed more than 70 homes and burnt through 10,000 hectares. I want to take this opportunity to offer my personal and the parliament's thoughts and deepest sympathies to those who have lost their homes and those who have been affected by the fire.
Our community here and around Ellenbrook and my electorate are, sadly, all too familiar with the devastating impact of bushfires. Just over a year ago in my own home suburb of Yanchep, a fast-moving fire burnt through about 13,000 hectares, and last month a fire tore through areas of Mundaring and Chittering, the same areas that are now again under threat. The present fire has, very sadly, devastated picturesque national parks, local businesses and family homes, and the destruction has fixed the attention of the wider Western Australian community, as people watch from COVID-19 lockdown.
My staff and I have spent many years working at our electorate office in Ellenbrook, an area under threat from the fire. Obviously, we've gotten to know all of our local community, and there are people who have become close friends—people like Justin and Hayley at the Hen, who kindly hosted an event with the Prime Minister in 2019; Mel and the staff at Laneway Seven, the local cafe, who are champions of the JobKeeper initiative and also good friends who look after us as we work in Ellenbrook; Beryl Eissens and Graham Dore from Ellenbrook Community Radio, who've kept us informed over the years. They're just a few of the incredible members of our community. They've all had to evacuate their homes, and I hope that they can return as soon as reasonably possible.
The fire has brought out the best in our community, though. We've had strangers offering their homes as safe havens, and local cafes and eateries providing free meals to evacuees. The Bap sent me photographs last night of 350 hot meals that they provided to volunteers yesterday. Despite the stories of destruction and devastation, it's those sorts of accounts of kindness in the community that really leave an imprint on our consciousness. I'd very much like to thank the City of Swan mayor, Kevin Bailey—who is a great bloke—and his local government team for activating the City of Swan's emergency plan and for their remarkable work in supporting and uniting the community. Of course, there are hundreds of firefighters who have been working day and night to protect lives and homes. Sadly, several firefighters have been injured in service of their community. We wish them a speedy recovery. To all of our emergency personnel, who have a hard day ahead of them today: we thank you for all your efforts.
Finally, for those individuals most affected, it's a useful time to note that the federal government has activated the disaster recovery allowance payment. The recovery payment will support those who need it, with $1,000 for eligible adults and $400 for eligible children. More information on how to claim is available on the Services Australia website. Those claims can be made, and I understand money is flowing today. As we continue through the fourth day of this bushfire, the communities are still under very significant threat. The advice is clear: listen to the emergency services personnel, stay up to date with changing condition and do whatever you need to do to protect yourself and your family. We will all get through this.