Australian Bushfires

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (19:27): On behalf of the people of Lilley I extend my condolences to the 33 families who have lost loved ones over this summer's bushfire crisis—lost souls who stood and fought the fires. Some ran into the fires. They saved countless other countrymen from fires, and we honour them. On 25 January I marched with my community for Survival Day, which is a day about resilience. We finished at Koobara, a kindy in Zillmere which works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families on the north side of Brisbane. Speaking with local elders, we began talking about the land we are all charged with a moral duty to care for, and of karrikins. Karrikins are a family of small organic compounds found in smoke that can stimulate germination of dormant seeds in the aftermath of bushfires. Karrikins can also make seedlings more responsive to light and adapt to grow in new conditions. The name is derived from the word 'karrik', which means 'smoke' in the Indigenous language of the Noongar people in WA. Different plant species have different reactions to bushfires. Some plants are completely lost. Others survive but their leaves are incinerated or their bark becomes charred. However, from the charcoal littered soil, plants will continue to grow after the havoc ends and eventually new green emerges. After this devastating bushfire season I hope that all Australians can take some heart from the resilient purpose and way of the karrikins.

It is hard to fathom the level of destruction these bushfires have inflicted. Thirty-three people have lost their lives, thousands of people had to abandon their hopes, over one billion animals have perished, and Indigenous communities who have a strong cultural attachment to the land have once again been displaced. We will remember the ripple effect that bushfires can have and we will make sure that firefighters, emergency workers, volunteers and affected families have access to proper health care and counselling for the trauma, grief and loss that they have suffered.

No-one wants to see their national parliament play party games at a time such as this, but they do want to hear, see and feel true leadership from those of us gifted with the honour of representing them in the federal parliament. I am not here to try to score political points, but I will not shy away from an honest and robust debate about how we got here and what we must do now. These bushfires have decimated the economies of too many Australian communities. We cannot go on as we have before, because this summer has shown, more starkly than ever, that the cost of not acting to protect our people, our flora and our fauna from our harshening climate is a cost that we should not and cannot bear any longer.

Every Australian has been impacted by the bushfire season. Tangalooma is just off the coast of my electorate of Lilley and is the gateway to Moreton Island. Its stunning national park is a quiet and serene relic of what the world was like before humans inhabited the land. It is home to a wild world of native wildlife, including 36 types of reptile, 14 species of mammal, 11 species of amphibians and 11 native terrestrial mammals. On 16 November a devastating fire rapidly spread through the northern parts of Moreton Island. Parts of this ancient relic have now been lost. The fires affected many of the native animals, who had to flee their homes as trees around them burned. Tangalooma served as an evacuation centre for displaced travellers and locals who were seeking shelter from the fire and from the smoke. Thankfully, due to the indefatigable effort of firefighters, no homes were lost.

But too many Australians elsewhere have been devastated by fire with loss of life and the destruction of property. Australians have come together to help those who are suddenly without. Some donated food, water and blankets and some donated money, knowing what the measurable cost of rebuilding would be. Some, including emergency service workers, dedicated their time to coordinate efforts to evacuate communities and fight the bushfires.

The comradery and bravery of emergency service workers and volunteers cannot be praised enough. They work for exhausting hours in conditions that push human strength to the limit to keep our communities safe. As the member for Lilley, I would like to highlight the work of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services personnel at the State Disaster Coordination Centre in Kedron, at the southern point of our community. The centre has been activated during this bushfire season as a watch desk and communications centre to create an agile and advanced response to disaster. The men and women at the centre have been, and still are, dedicating countless hours of their time to ensure that fire and rescue services are working efficiently with other emergency stakeholders.

To all of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services workers who operate the State Disaster Coordination Centre in Kedron: thank you for your service. To the approximately 134 Queensland Fire and Emergency Services personnel who have left their families to fight fires across our borders: thank you for your courage and your bravery. To the many Australians who are looking at what the bushfires have left them with and wondering how they're going to begin again: I assure you that, like Australian karrikins stimulate the dormant resilient seeds of our ancient land, we will recover, rise and thrive again.