Condolences – Natural Disasters – Report from Main Committee

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this motion of condolence in relation to the natural disasters that have so significantly impacted on so many communities across Australia this summer, particularly the natural disasters that have devastated my home city of Brisbane and my state of Queensland. Firstly, I would like to offer my sincere condolences on behalf of all the residents of Bonner to the families and loved ones of those whose lives were so tragically lost. In particular, I acknowledge my colleagues from both sides who lost members of their communities. I know that your communities will never be the same again. I also offer my sincere condolences to everyone who suffered throughout the recent floods and Cyclone Yasi-to those who lost their personal belongings, including many irreplaceable memories, and those who returned to find their home, their ‘castle’, devastated.

Unlike those of so many of my Queensland colleagues, my electorate of Bonner was not significantly impacted by the flood in Brisbane only a matter of weeks ago. This is somewhat miraculous, given that we border on the electorate of Griffith, which I know suffered significant loss. There was certainly concern raised for the suburbs of Murarrie and Hemmant in Bonner but, given the Brisbane River did not rise to the levels originally predicted, it seems that many families and homes in these suburbs were spared. However, as many in this House would know, the eastern border of my electorate is in fact Moreton Bay, the mouth of the Brisbane River. I have had a lot of people contacting me, voicing their concerns about the plume of mud and debris dispersing through Moreton Bay.

The enormous amount of water that flowed down the Brisbane River brought with it thousands of tonnes of silt containing pollutants which are now settling in Moreton Bay. The Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, the Healthy Waterways partnership, the CSIRO and several Queensland universities have deployed research teams into the bay in the last couple of weeks so as to understand the dynamics of the flood plume and its likely effect on seagrass, fish, dugongs, turtles, coral and other marine flora and fauna. I am completely behind these efforts and thank the many organisations for their dedication and care. So many people’s livelihoods depend on the ongoing health of Moreton Bay.

Throughout the darkest days of the flood in Brisbane, my office was able to largely remain open to assist many of the residents with information and direct people to specialist assistance as required, but this was done by only one staff member and me. All the other members of my staff were forced to remain in their homes-most without power-because most of the major roads had either been cut off by floodwater or were required by emergency services. While I readily admit that this is no real impost compared to those who were evacuated or remained in their homes hoping to hold back the water, it does give this House a sense of the gravity of what occurred and that there are few people in Brisbane and across the state of Queensland who have not been touched in some way.

Given the scale of the disaster, what I have found incredible over the last few weeks has been the community compassion in Bonner for those who have been impacted. The community spirit that emerged in the face of this disaster was a true testament to the generosity and kindness of local residents. Never before have so many people offered their help and support to those in need. I know that many in my community assisted those threatened by flood waters by filling and moving sandbags and I know that so many offered their time to volunteer in the clean-up. I saw a legion of volunteers rise up with their rakes, buckets and shovels and line up at the Brisbane City Council volunteers stations. They worked tirelessly in the mud, moving tonnes of debris, bit by bit. At MacGregor State School, just outside my electorate, I was humbled and proud to witness the thousands of volunteers who lined up patiently to help those who had been affected. They were ordinary people who just wanted to help in any way they could to do their bit and get their fellow Aussies back on their feet. In my eyes they are extraordinary.

On another practical level, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all members of the local community who so generously donated goods for inclusion in special flood care packages. My office was overwhelmed by the community’s generosity in responding to the call for donations of hygiene products and other sanitary goods that are so often forgotten in care packages for those hardest hit. The local community was truly inspiring in their call to action. Thousands of much needed hygiene and basic sanitary products were received by my office and those were divided into over 100 care packages that were donated through the Red Cross to assist flood victims who lost everything. My electorate office has continued to collect donated goods for more care packages, including things such as deodorant, razors, shampoo, conditioner and other basic hygiene products, this time in conjunction with Liberal-National Party Women to support those affected by cyclone Yasi.

I would like to place on the record my admiration and appreciation for the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman. Lord Mayor Newman displayed incredible leadership throughout the ordeal faced by Brisbane residents, and I would like to say thank you. There is still a big job ahead in rebuilding Brisbane, but if anyone is up to that task it is Campbell. Also, I have organised a fundraising initiative, which I will talk about at another time, to assist the victims of the floods.

On a final note, I would like to thank all Australians who have so generously donated to the various flood appeals that have been organised over recent weeks. Your generosity is humbling and, as a Queenslander, I say thank you. Again, I reiterate that the thoughts of all members of the Bonner community are with those who have been affected by recent events.

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