South Australian Bushfires

04 March, 2020

The Hon. J.S. LEE (17:34): I rise today to support this motion wholeheartedly, and I join the Premier, the Treasurer and my parliamentary colleagues in both houses of the South Australian parliament to express our deep condolences on the loss of lives and the devastation experienced by affected communities as a result of the unprecedented ferocity of the bushfires in South Australia this summer.

As members of parliament, we collectively extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends who are suffering from the sad loss of lives caused by bushfires in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island. It was heartbreaking to see the confronting damage caused by these horrifying fires burning down trees, national parks, farms, properties, taking lives and injuring many. As a community, we stand together with those who have been affected, and we share their anguish, their pain and despair. Our thoughts and prayers are with all victims, their families and friends.

On 9 January 2020, the CFS reported the total area destroyed by the Kangaroo Island bushfires stands at 200,000 hectares. It was reported that some 186 dwellings, 870 outbuildings, sheds, barns, hay sheds and carports had been destroyed. Livestock losses are devastating, with a total financial impact for the agricultural sector alone estimated to be more than $19 million. Other sectors heavily impacted by these bushfires include tourism, the wine industry and our national parks and wildlife.

I want to pay tribute to our dear friend and Mayor of Kangaroo Island, Mr Michael Pengilly, who has shown tremendous leadership working with his community during these most difficult and frightening times. I have spoken to him numerous times and caught up with him recently at the tourism summit. He said that the KI community is resilient and he is encouraging people to visit Kangaroo Island and support the #BookThemOut tourism campaign.

I am pleased to report that 101 people from the Nepalese community of South Australia, through NRNA, visited Kangaroo Island on 16 February 2020 to show friendship and support to the impacted communities, and they call on other multicultural communities to do the same—what a motivating message. By visiting bushfire-affected regions and by promoting Kangaroo Island as a tourism destination, we support KI's economy and the social wellbeing of the locals.

It is hard to imagine the multidimensional hardship that people are facing after these ravaging bushfires. Beautiful landscapes and natural habitats for wildlife were wiped out and are unrecognisable. Many have lost homes they have lived in since childhood. Everything vanished into thick smoke and ashes, including the irreplaceable contents that were destroyed, such as photographs of children and grandchildren and other valuable memorabilia that can never be recovered again.

The Marshall government is working alongside our resilient community and doing whatever it takes to support recovery and rebuilding work so that those affected communities can be supported to get back on their feet in the recovery and rebuilding process. It is going to be a long hard road ahead, but we want to reassure the affected communities that we will help them every step of the way.

The Premier, the Treasurer, the Minister for Human Services and other colleagues in their contributions to this motion have stated on the public record their strong commitment to this disaster recovery process, ensuring that our communities can access the bushfire recovery financial assistance and various relief grants packages. The Marshall government put in place the disaster recovery processes to ensure the management of the flow of funds to bushfire-impacted communities will be the top priority for spending approvals over the coming months. In addition, extra resources have been allocated in the health portfolio for mental health and wellbeing, as well as in the environment and water portfolio.

In these unfortunate times where Mother Nature becomes destructive, we are lucky that human nature becomes constructive. Throughout the bushfire crisis, we saw the best of human spirit and kindness by our South Australian community. We witnessed courageous individuals become local heroes, risking their lives to rescue people and animals in the most dangerous situations. We further witnessed tremendous generosity and commitment by individuals, community groups and businesses, reaching out to others and actively participating in bushfire appeal activities in response to the worst bushfire season we have seen in the history of South Australia.

I want to place on the record my heartfelt admiration, respect and gratitude for the heroic efforts of the hundreds of firefighters, emergency services personnel, Defence Force personnel and volunteers. Without their determination, courage, contributions and selfless sacrifice many more lives and homes would have been lost. I consider these firefighters and emergency services personnel as superheroes. They must be built differently; with enduring strength and determination they can work under the most stressful, dangerous and unpredictable conditions. We salute these heroes.

We also thank all the volunteers who have supported on the front lines and behind the scenes by providing food, water and accommodation to firefighters, and the countless doctors, nurses, ambulance officers, paramedics, police officers and so many others who contributed to the rescue efforts and, of course, the ongoing recovery efforts. These volunteers come from all walks of life, and many come from multicultural backgrounds. We thank them all for responding as one big community.

His Excellency the Governor, in his opening speech to parliament, praised the commitment of our firefighters and emergency services workers, saying that no praise is too high for them. I wish to thank His Excellency for his outstanding vision and for providing the platform to publicly recognise and acknowledge representatives of the Country Fire Service, the Metropolitan Fire Service, the State Emergency Service and the National Parks and Wildlife Service by placing them in the honour guard outside parliament on the opening day of parliament. Furthermore, their presence in the gallery of the Legislative Council on the opening of parliament was also publicly acknowledged on 5 February 2020.

The bushfires in the Adelaide Hills and on Kangaroo Island have inflicted unimaginable damage on properties, natural resources and wildlife, and there is a difficult and long road ahead for those who have been affected by these tragic losses. Can a crisis bring out the best in people? Sometimes it can, and we are incredibly fortunate that the bushfire crisis brought out the best in the people of South Australia.

South Australians stand together united in our determination to help those in need in rescue missions and afterwards in recovery and rebuilding processes. People are lending their hand to communities, businesses, industries and to restoring and rejuvenating our environment and wildlife habitat. It is at times like this that the Aussie spirit of mateship and fellowship shines through brightly. It made me even prouder to be an Australian as we witnessed the best in human nature during the horrendous bushfire crisis facing South Australia.

There is an overwhelming outpouring of love, a sense of responsibility and solidarity for bushfire-impacted regions. Just about every single day we are moved by the generosity, kindness and strong leadership of individuals, businesses and community groups who are digging deep and putting compassion into action by donating their time and money to assist their fellow South Australians in their time of need.

Today, I would like to give praise and place on the public record my appreciation and thanks to a vast number of multicultural community groups and organisations who have contributed to the SA Bushfire Appeal. I thank these community groups who responded to the call by Premier Steven Marshall when he said, 'The most important thing, quite frankly, is the need for money.' As Assistant Minister to the Premier, with a strong connection to the multicultural communities, I am incredibly humbled that so many multicultural organisations have responded compassionately to the Premier's call to drive their own fundraising activities for the bushfire appeal. I am going to seek the chamber's indulgence so that I can present a list of these organisations, not in any specific order. Each contribution is a gift of unconditional love and support to affected communities and therefore each group deserves our respect and recognition in parliament today.

From the Italian community, Radio Italiana has contributed over $50,000 to the bushfire appeal. The Marche Club also organised a fundraiser with Riding for Disabled, 1300 KOALAZ and Radio Italia Uno, and raised approximately $18,000; that is a great effort in conjunction with Radio Italia Uno. The Veneto Club has donated $10,000, which is a generous donation. The Molinara Club has raised $2,380. Other notable fundraisers are Serafino Wines, along with other McLaren Vale businesses down south, which raised $45,000 towards their local CFS station. Many more Italian clubs and associations have also donated. So far, the Italian community has raised over $120,000.

The Muslim community has certainly been very busy conducting many prayer sessions and fundraising activities. The Islamic Society of South Australia has raised $7,000 to the SA Bushfire Appeal and have also donated $1,000 to the CFS Foundation. Human Appeal International distributed trucks of hay to farmers to feed animals on Kangaroo Island. The South Australian Hazara-Afghan community has grown over the last three decades. They have combined their effort with a number of organisations and have raised an incredible amount of $89,244. The Fatima Zahra Mosque and Hussainia Inc. have raised $30,125 for the SA Bushfire Appeal. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community raised $5,000. So the Muslim community certainly has been actively participating in the SA Bushfire Appeal.

Now I will turn my attention to the Chinese and South Asian community. A group of passionate Chinese business chambers and associations have raised $34,159.90. It was driven by the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce, together with 15 other organisations. The Australian Chinese Medical Association (ACMA) used their Chinese New Year dinner to raise $10,000 for the CFS Foundation and an additional $8,000 towards the Kangaroo Island Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund. Despite the coronavirus challenges in Chinatown, Adelaide, they used the Lunar New Year street party and their Chinese New Year dinner to raise a generous $10,000 for the SA Bushfire Appeal.

A group of musicians, the SA Master String Quintet, through DC Australia Culture and Education Services, organised a bushfire fundraising concert and raised $17,559. I want to pay special tribute to these musicians because when they were hosting this fundraising concert, a thief broke into the Baptist church where the concert was held. One of the musicians had their purse and phone stolen, yet through their own generosity, even though they had lost money, they still wholeheartedly contributed to the bushfire appeal, which is such a gesture of kindness that needs to be paid tribute to and recognised.

The South Australian Federation of Chinese Organisations from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have also shown a strong commitment. They donated $5,565. The Guan Gong Temple Teo Chew Association, through prayers, raised $8,620. The BalaBala Laser Clinic, a local Chinese business, donated $2,000 to the CFS Foundation. The Tong De Association used their Christmas function to raise $2,000 for the CFS Foundation.

The Malaysia Club donated $3,000 to the CFS Foundation. The Singapore Business and Social Association donated $1,372.30 to the SA Bushfire Appeal. The Wat Sri Rattana Wanaram Thai Forest Monastery from the Thai community raised $2,000 directly for the Mylor CFS station. The Chin community of South Australia from Myanmar, through the Adelaide Chin Christian Church, donated an incredible $8,000.

Zomi Innkuan Adelaide, also from Myanmar, a very small emerging refugee community, did an exceptionally good job in raising an impressive amount of $9,000. The Vietnamese community in South Australia raised $22,000. They also donated an additional $10,000 to the Australian Red Cross. Additionally, they hosted another fundraising event on 29 February and donated $12,200 directly to the local CFS station.

From the Indian community of South Australia and the subcontinent community, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Adelaide Temple raised $6,325. The Hindu Society of South Australia raised $4,325. The Indian Australia Association of South Australia, at the recent Indian Mela, raised $5,250. The Kalalaya School of Indian Performing Arts organised a concert and raised $2,501. Shivagarjana Adelaide, which is a band that plays the traditional drums, performed in Rundle Mall as well as at Glenelg, raised $2,425 for the State Emergency Relief Fund.

The Telugu Association got active and cooked over 600 sausages at a Bunnings store and raised $1,111.50. Vaishnav Sangh of Adelaide, a Hindu organisation, raised $1,001 towards the SA Bushfire Appeal. Gurdwara Sarbat Khalsa, a Sikh temple based in Prospect, raised $10,000 for the Gumeracha CFS station. United Indians of South Australia donated $2,000 to the SA Bushfire Appeal.

The Nepalese community in South Australia also got really busy and organised a fundraising dinner. Their effort reached a $8,528 donation. The South Australian Bangladeshi Community Association (SABCA) raised $1,600 and they presented a cheque at the celebration of International Mother Language Day on the weekend.

Adelaide Sri Lankan Buddhist Vihara organised a special service of prayer. They raised $1,828.50. The Ceylon Tamil Association from the Sri Lankan community raised $1,000. The Sri Lankan Association of South Australia also conducted a fundraising concert and raised $4,000, which they donated to the Kangaroo Island Mayor Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund.

Other community groups which have been active include the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia. They held a very successful radiothon and generously donated $20,000. Bund der Bayern, Adelaide's energetic Bavarian dance group, raised $1,000 in Hahndorf. The Laziza Multicultural Festival raised $550.

I have no doubt that there are many more organisations, businesses and individuals across South Australia who have been doing many more fundraising campaigns and making donations. I want to thank every single one of them. Every dollar counts and every contribution, no matter how big or small, will make an enormous difference to those affected by this tragedy.

I thank each and every one who has demonstrated a strong sense of community spirit in standing together with our community. Your generosity and act of kindness will provide not just financial assistance but much comfort and hope to those in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island to ensure recovery and rebuilding is on track to allow normality to resume as soon as possible.

The Marshall government is determined to work together with our community to implement the full suite of disaster recovery plans and introduce new measures to tackle future challenges ahead. With those remarks, I wholeheartedly commend this motion to the chamber.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (17:56): I thank all honourable members for their contribution to this important motion and for the unanimous support that it has attracted and is going to attract. In particular, I want to acknowledge the excellent contribution from my colleague the Hon. Jing Lee. I know she has acknowledged the magnificent work of the multicultural communities in South Australia, and I join with her—and I know I speak on behalf of the government and the Premier as well—in thanking all of those communities for the magnificence of the work that they undertook and continue to undertake in supporting those in need.

I also want to pay tribute to the Hon. Jing Lee because I know that with many of those groups and associations it has been through her hard work and organisation that many of them have made this contribution as well. So I acknowledge the work my colleague has done in that particular area. With that, I thank honourable members for their support for the motion.

Motion carried.