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6 May 2015

Sampson Flat and Tantanoola Bushfires

That this council—

1. Acknowledges with gratitude the inspirational efforts of the emergency services staff and volunteers in fighting the Sampson Flat and Tantanoola bushfires which resulted in the declaration of a major emergency on 3 January 2015;

2. The dedication and professionalism demonstrated by SA emergency personnel and their colleagues from NSW and Victoria over the 6 days before the fire was contained, prevented much worse destruction and any loss of life; and

3. Also acknowledges the work of the many agencies, community groups and individuals involved in establishing and running the relief centres at Golden Grove, Sandy Creek, Willas t on and later Gumeracha and those now still involved in the recovery phase led by the State Recovery Office and the wider community for their enormous generosity during and after the emergency.

(Continued from 25 February.)

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 17:41 :45 ): I rise to speak in support of the motion brought to this chamber by the Hon. Tung Ngo. The essence, obviously, of the motion is that it acknowledges with gratitude the inspirational efforts of our emergency services in fighting the Sampson Flat and Tantanoola bushfires.

The details of the fires at Sampson Flat and Tantanoola that ravaged our countryside earlier this year have been well recorded in this chamber. I do not propose to revisit the details of the fires, as they were described in detail by the Hon. Tung Ngo in moving this motion. The danger that these fires presented to our community was matched by the dedication and professionalism of our state’s emergency services. I congratulate them on their performance, not only for their dedication and professionalism, but more particularly for the courage they displayed in the face of adversity and danger to their person.

All those who contributed to the state’s response to the fires have our unstinting gratitude. Their efforts prevented even greater destruction and, more importantly, ensured that no lives were lost.

As members of this chamber would know, I have had a long association with St John Ambulance. I have spoken previously in this place on their contribution to fighting the fires and caring for the communities impacted. Nevertheless, it is worth reminding the chamber that St John worked closely alongside other emergency services and supported other agencies during the bushfires. St John was one of the many agencies that put in an extraordinary effort while the fires were being fought, and afterwards when the communities were taking their first steps to repair and rebuild.

I extend my personal thanks to all those who came from other states and stood side by side with our emergency services personnel in our time of need. I think in speaking in support of this motion that I should probably make a few comments on volunteer firefighters. They occupy a unique place in our society. They willingly volunteer to undertake dangerous and life-threatening work. They do not seek reward. They do so from the purest of motives, to serve their community and to keep it safe. I salute them, for they volunteer in the full knowledge that they will potentially face life-threatening situations.

I also acknowledge the contribution of their families. Volunteers give up their time that they would otherwise spend with their loved ones, to train in their craft. Their families have to nervously await their return when they have been called to duty. For every volunteer firefighter who fought in these fires, there was a family watching the fires on the television and trying to put out of their minds that their loved one may not return.

The state willingly accepts the efforts of its volunteer firefighters. It must, in doing so, pay tribute to the families of the volunteers who offer up those they love for the protection of all in the community. Having regard to the dangers our communities face, I reflect on whether we do enough for our volunteers in the emergency services. Perhaps these fires should serve as a stern reminder of the important role our volunteers play in protecting our communities and encourage us to do more to ensure their welfare, as well as growing their numbers, building upon their level of training and improving their equipment.

I am proud of my party’s relentless pursuit of ensuring access to cancer compensation for CFS volunteers. Being a volunteer does not, nor should it ever, mean that you forgo certain rights and entitlements that would otherwise be available to someone sharing the same risk but as a full-time employee. Perhaps it is time we revisited our attitudes to volunteers and look for a new compact between the state, the people and those willing to step forward to defend their neighbours from adversity and danger.

Disappointingly, there is an attitude that inhabits some parts of the organs of our state that the term ‘volunteer’ equates with ‘amateur’. I reject this shallow notion. The fact that it is still maintained by some demonstrates to me that there is still work to do in ensuring that all who live in this state will completely understand the value of our volunteers and their contribution to our state. We in this parliament should seek to lead this endeavour.

I close by reiterating my support for the motion. The fires—a constant threat to us in this land—have again shown us that our community still has men and women who we can be justly proud of. I support the motion.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. G.A. Kandelaars .

See full session on Hansard

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