House debates

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Statements by Members

Australian Bushfires

1:30 pm

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thirty-nine years ago today, on 16 February 1983, the Ash Wednesday bushfires devastated numerous communities across Victoria and South Australia. The fires took the lives of 75 people. Fourteen of those were Victorian CFA firefighters and three were South Australian Country Fire Service members. More than 180 fires across the drought-stricken landscape, combined with ferocious winds, left a path of devastation that we still feel the effects of today. Over 3,700 buildings were destroyed or damaged, and 2,545 individuals and families lost their homes. Before Black Saturday, Ash Wednesday was our deadliest bushfire.

Over the last 30 to 40 years the electorate of McEwen has suffered in every bushfire major season there is, with over 75 per cent of the electorate burnt. The Black Saturday and Ash Wednesday fires killed more people than all the fires in between. We today remember particularly the five Panton Hill CFA fire brigade members who lost their lives in the service of their community: Bill Marsden, Peter Singleton, Maurice Atkinson, Stuart Duff and Neville Jeffery. Never will those names be forgotten, because of the memorial at Panton Hill. Today is a timely reminder, when we remember those lives lost, to also think about those who put their lives on the line every day: our CFA volunteers. We thank them for everything that they do in keeping the community safe. Today is a day that's going to be very painful for our CFA members, but it's a day that has been etched in our memories forever, and we will never forget.