CONDOLENCES | BUSHFIRES

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan): I too rise to speak on the bushfires condolence motion. My sincere condolences are with the families whose family members passed away fighting bushfires. I want to pay my tribute to those who lost their lives fighting bravely to protect us: David Moresi, Mick Roberts, Fred Baker, Mat Kavanagh and Bill Slade.

Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought fuelled a series of massive bushfires across Australia. The deadly fires sparked in September 2019 and have been blazing ever since. The fires have created unprecedented damage, killing five people and an estimated 1 billion animals. In Victoria the fires have burnt nearly 1.2 million hectares, and it is heartbreaking to see the devastation. However, in difficult times like this I am delighted to see the efforts made by Victorians to help fire-affected communities. True Australian spirit was displayed by all communities, and we came together at the time of need, statewide and Australia-wide.

Victoria has supported its multicultural communities, and in turn multicultural communities put in extraordinary efforts to support Victoria. The Indian community, and particularly our Sikh community in Victoria, has put in tremendous efforts, especially in Bairnsdale and other areas. I am pleased to say that I have had many phone calls from the Indian community asking how they can help. Community groups went on ground with cooked food for fire-affected families. People delivered food and goods to the affected communities. They made generous donations towards the rebuilding efforts by doing many types of fundraisers. It is great to see such brilliant support efforts, and I feel proud to be a part of the Indian community, which is a very generous community. Through efforts like these the Indian and South Asian communities showed the true meaning of Victorian multiculturalism and displayed to the world that we Australians are one of the most inclusive societies in the world. In this way we want to show our gratitude to our beautiful state and country that has given us so many opportunities.

I want to thank all volunteers who went to the bushfire-affected areas to help. Many fundraising activities have already been done by various Indian and South Asian community organisations, but I know that many fundraising activities are still underway.

I urge everyone to continue their support; it does not matter how big or small. We need to stand by our fellow citizens and try our absolute best to help in whatever way we can. I cannot thank enough our emergency workers, firefighters and volunteers for their dedication, bravery and support.

The Andrews Labor government, under the leadership of Premier Daniel Andrews, has done a wonderful job, and I am proud of it. We will continue to support and help those affected by the disaster. I would like to thank the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Lisa Neville, for the wonderful job done by her during extremely difficult times.

I was in Bairnsdale and other Gippsland areas along with my parliamentary colleagues in early December, just a few weeks before the devastating bushfires, for a parliamentary committee hearing, and I will visit there again as a tourist. Please, let us all make sure that we visit the bushfire-affected areas by planning our visits and holidays there and spending money there to help them rebuild. The road to recovery will be long, but we will all work together and rebuild. Once again, I express my deepest sympathies to the families whose loved ones died in a heroic way fighting bushfires.