Tuesday, 21 February 2023

Members statements

Ash Wednesday commemoration

Ash Wednesday commemoration

Bev McARTHUR (Western Victoria) (13:20): I rise to thank those who gathered at the Aireys Inlet community hall last Thursday to commemorate 40 years since Ash Wednesday. My Polwarth colleague Richard Riordan and I were humbled to be the sole parliamentary representatives present. In 1983 lives were united by the searing fires that screamed across the state and South Australia, taking 76 lives. It remains a day so many remember, for how could they forget the fear, the ferocity, the unknown, the endless sirens, the billowing smoke, the horizon unseeable in the drifts of ash and blackness, the dry heat, the roar of the wind, the silence of the devastation left behind, the eeriness of scorched earth, the mangled iron sheeting, the shattered dreams and lost memories?

Lessons have been learned from that day, but we all live in hope that Victoria can do better. We must do better, as fire in this sunburnt country will always be with us. Roadsides must be cleared of 6-foot-high vegetation instead of acting like candlewicks directing the inferno. Power distribution and transmission lines, where possible, must go underground. Fuel reduction burns must sensitively reduce the fire risk. Thank you to those who united last week, and thank you to those CFA volunteers who stoically gather weekly in readiness for the next plume of smoke.

Sitting suspended 1:22 pm until 2:05 pm.