Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester asked the Federal Parliament to remember the 11 people in Gippsland who lost their lives during the Black Saturday bushfires when he made a speech to the House of Representatives this week.
Mr Chester spoke about the Black Saturday anniversary after attending commemorative services in the Latrobe Valley.
“As we gathered in Gippsland last week on the 10th anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires, we had the smell of smoke in the air again as a very poignant reminder of how bushfires in regional Victoria are a part of summer,” Mr Chester told Parliament.
“We remembered those who died, we remembered those whose lives had been changed forever and we remembered those who had contributed so much to our community at a time of need.
“We paused to give thanks to our community for being so resilient, and to the resourceful people who had the strength to get back in there and rebuild their lives.”
The services in Gippsland commemorated the lives of Nathan Charles, Fred Frendo, Scott Frendo, Colin Gibson, David Gibson, Alan Jacobs, Miros Jacobs, Luke Jacobs, Annette Leatham, Gertrude Martin and Martin Schultz. These eight men and three women died in the fires across Traralgon South, Callignee, Koornalla, Hazelwood and Jeeralang.
Mr Chester spoke at an event in Boolarra at the weekend about the everyday heroes of Gippsland who had fought the bushfires and how the community rallied together in this time of extraordinary crisis.
“When I spoke at that function of about 250 people, which was pretty much the entire community of Boolarra crammed into the hall, I remembered something that Australian test cricket captain Steve Waugh had used in 2001 on the Indian tour.
“He apparently wrote on the whiteboard—I don’t know if it’s true or a myth, ‘Your attitude is contagious. Is yours worth catching?’
“The reason I raised that on Saturday night in Boolarra was that the local leadership in the aftermath of the bushfires in Gippsland was contagious. The attitude that people brought to the task was contagious—their determination, their enormous resilience, their willingness to give to each other in extraordinarily tough circumstances.
“People who had lost the lot would always find someone else who had lost more and then go to their aid. So, we were blessed in many ways.
“I guess it’s frustrating for us to sometimes wonder: what if we could harness that level of energy and effort every day, rather just in response to the disasters? “
Mr Chester said Black Saturday had taught some important lessons in terms of the messaging to threatened communities.
“Just because you’ve got a well-prepared property doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to make it through,” Mr Chester said.
“That message is very strongly understood in the community now. There are days that are off the scale and you are better off just getting out of there. I think people learnt that message very strongly from Black Saturday.”