Speech: Local media and the bushfires

Speech: Local media and the bushfires Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (17:17): I am delighted to rise to speak on this motion about the amazing job of our local ABC during the recent bushfire crisis. The ABC, as our official national emergency broadcaster, played an instrumental role in keeping our community informed, updated and, most importantly, safe.

ABC South East and ABC Illawarra in my electorate provided rolling coverage of the bushfires. Their regular emergency broadcasts were a familiar, if anxious, sound that immediately put you to attention. When the power went out across the New South Wales south coast, it was the handy battery-powered radio that so many people were forced to rely on. In a fast-moving and chaotic crisis like our community experienced, a reliable and trusted source of information cannot be overstated. During the height of the bushfires, both of these stations received hourly updates from our local Rural Fire Service district managers. This gave people a direct line to what was happening on the ground, where the dangers were and what to do. The ABC also gave important information on what to do in the event of a bushfire, how to prepare to evacuate and where to go—life-saving information, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind. It wasn't just important for people on the ground. Family members and friends from near and far were also tuned in on their radios to their ABC news channel, glued to the latest updates. Again, without telecommunications or power, for so many this was their only way to know what was happening in the towns and cities of people we loved.

While the ABC did an absolutely astounding job—no question—there are many, many other media outlets which also provided this vital service to our community. I would just like to take a quick moment to acknowledge the work of all of our local media outlets for the way they supported our community through this extremely trying time. So many of our local journalists worked non-stop through the bushfire crisis. They were there when our community needed them, and they were unwavering. Many of these journalists were dealing with threats to their own homes. None of us were immune from that over this long summer. They are part of our community and they mourned with us. They fought to make sure our community was informed, safe and supported, and they are all champions in my mind.

I would like to thank each and every one of them for their contribution—2ST, Power FM, 2EC, Wave FM, i98FM, Shoalhaven Community Radio, Bay and Basin Community Radio, Eurobodalla Access Radio, the South Coast Register, the Bay Post-Moruya Examiner, the Milton Ulladulla Times, The Bugle Kiama, the Kiama Independent, About Regional, The Beagle, Ulladulla.info, the Illawarra Mercury, the Illawarra Star, WIN TV, Channel 9, SBS, the UOWTV. All these media outlets and more deserve our eternal gratitude for all they have done and continue to do. Social media also played a huge part in keeping the community informed. It would not be possible for me to list all the community Facebook pages that became a key source of information here but each of them deserves our thanks.

In regional communities like mine, the other essential part of our media landscape are our community newsletters. In an electorate the size of Gilmore, I cannot name them all here but they are so important and have also done the most incredible job of keeping us all informed, being by our side every step of the way. I would also like to acknowledge the vital work of my local councils—Shoalhaven City Council, Eurobodalla Shire Council and Kiama Municipal Council. Like the media outlets, they performed an essential role in making sure our community was informed while also working to respond to this crisis. So many people in our councils worked around the clock in the emergency operation centres and beyond. Thank you to everyone involved in this mammoth operation.

Our ABC, along with everyone else I have mentioned here, has been there every day for our community. The headlines may have gone, the national and international media may have moved on, but it's our local media that will always be there with us. We have a shared experience that has bonded us all forever. This has been the fire season we sometimes thought would never end. We feel the exhaustion together; we feel the heartache and loss together. I thank them all for what they have done now and every day.

Honourable members: Hear, hear.