Australian Bushfires


Peter Khalil: To those who have lost family and loved ones during this horrible bushfire season, of course our deepest sympathies are with them. One life lost is one too many and we have lost far too many people this summer. To our tireless emergency service workers and volunteers, we all have thanked you for your dedication, your care and your heroism over the course of many, many months. We have heard so many remarkable stories of courage and selflessness. We know that were it not for those tireless and selfless people, many more lives would have been lost in these fires. There are those who, as we speak today, are still working to protect our communities from fires that are still burning. We all know that the threat isn’t over and that we have a long way to go before this threat is over.

The devastation of these fires has affected so many across Australia and we’ve heard from so many members and senators about the impact on their communities. While my electorate is in the inner north—the suburban north of Melbourne—many of my constituents have written to me and shared their experiences, whether they themselves have had to evacuate or had family and loved ones who were under threat. Everyone has been touched by this, wherever they are in Australia. Over the past month, the people in my electorate of Wills, like so many communities around Australia, have come together to do what they can to support those directly devastated by the fires. Some people may consider this is very small, in the larger scheme of things, but the small efforts all add up. I want to say a special thanks to the people in my community who have made an effort to reach out, provide support, raise money and donate resources to the people who have been affected.

The staff at Wild Timor, the local coffee shop just near my electorate office, have donated all their tips to Foodbank Australia and Wildlife Victoria. The Coburg Market held a barbecue fundraiser for the Victorian bushfire recovery effort. The Pascoe Vale RSL raised money for the people of Mallacoota. The Fawkner Bowling Club went up against the Fawkner RSL in a bowls challenge to raise funds for bushfire recovery. There was even a yoga class fundraiser at Joe’s Market Garden at CERES and a film fundraiser at the Coburg drive-in—yes, we still have one in my electorate. A bush dance at the Spotted Mallard in Brunswick raised funds. A barbecue and social tennis game and tennis class at East Coburg Tennis Club raised funds, and $1 from every pint sold at the Post Office Hotel in Coburg throughout the months of January and February will go to the bushfire recovery.

Each small act of generosity, each gift of time or money and each local event organised with those directly affected by this fire season add up and make a difference. In times of crisis, that’s what we do: we band together, all of us, regardless of our backgrounds. We are, I think, reminded of what we share and what we have in common at these times. That Australian spirit of community, giving back and lending a hand has been on full display in my local community and, of course, in communities across the country.

As discussion inevitably turns to recovery and rebuilding, we must not forget that we are still in the middle of this. The bushfire season is not over, and communities are still under threat. We must acknowledge also that this bushfire season, extreme as it has been, has not been an anomaly. We know that climate change has impacted the length and the intensity of our bushfire seasons. That’s why we must act in a unified way as a nation with urgency. I thought the member for Eden-Monaro’s speech in the chamber yesterday really captured the essence of that call. The pleas that he made to those on the other side of the chamber were touching because it is about that spirit of unity and coming together to do something to tackle these issues, address climate change here at home and get to zero emissions. Only then can we take a leadership role on the global stage to urge other nations to reduce their global emissions. In the coming weeks and months, my hope—as we’ve all hoped in the last day or two—is that, as a parliament in this place where we work, we can not only honour those who have lost their lives by being there for the people and communities in their recovery but also work together in a spirit of bipartisanship for the betterment of our nation.