***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***
It was on this day in 2009:
- 173 people perished in the flames of Black Saturday.
- 40 suffered very serious injuries.
- 3,500 properties were destroyed by the fire.
As the Parliamentary Secretary for Bushfire reconstruction, I remember the burnt-out car wrecks and melted steel, it looked like a war zone.
I remember the public meetings, the stories of life and death, anger and grief and shock. People wondering how on earth they were going to start again.
Whole towns whose histories will forever be divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’ those terrible days in February 2009.
Today, we remember everyone who has fought the long struggle to rebuild – who fought insurance, or under-insurance or none at all. And we mourn all the loved ones lost.
Black Saturday reminded us too that there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about everyday Australians.
We saw the very best of our people.
The heroism of the voluntary and professional emergency services.
The generosity and optimism of the Lions Clubs, Rotary, Scouts and Girl Guides, school communities, Church groups, football and netball clubs.
So many good-hearted Australians who gave their time and energy to help put people back on their feet and make shattered communities whole.
Nothing can ever restore these communities to the way they were before the fire but I know that the bravery of those who have worked so hard will stay with me forever.
Finally, let us remember those who were lost - and hold those who grieve in our hearts.