Speech: Malua Bay and Conjola Rural Fire Service Brigades

Speech: Malua Bay and Conjola Rural Fire Service Brigades Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (17:35):  When a community has had a harrowing year, like our community on the New South Wales South Coast has, it isn't surprising that we notice more than ever those who are there for us. For our community, this year that has been all of our emergency services, but particularly the local Rural Fire Service brigades. They are our community's unsung heroes and we are very grateful for everything they have done for us. The Rural Fire Service is primarily a volunteer organisation. The brigades consist of members of our community who give up their own time to help and protect others. Heartbreakingly, many of them lost their own homes while they were out protecting others.

Since the bushfires, I have visited many local brigades. Last week, I added another two to that list, and I just want to share some of the reflections from those visits. On Wednesday, I visited the Malua Bay brigade. Malua Bay was one of the hardest hit areas of my electorate. In that suburb alone, 171 homes were destroyed or significantly damaged. The RFS shed itself was almost lost and several members' cars were burnt out while parked there while they were out on the firetruck. Members there wanted to share their thoughts with me on the royal commission, including their concerns that we have lost our ability to properly manage the land. Captain Ian and the team presented me with a beautiful book the brigade put together to commemorate their experiences, which I have proudly displayed in my Parliament House office. Thank you to Ian and Graham for inviting me and to all the members who came to say hello.

On Friday, I visited another of the hardest-hit brigades, the Conjola RFS. In the suburbs of Conjola Park, Conjola and Lake Conjola alone, 203 homes were destroyed or significantly damaged—and the brigade's responsibilities stretch much further than that. The bushfire was so fierce there was little anyone could do to stop it. The brigade itself described it as a ferocious firestorm of the likes never seen before. The villages were cut off for eight days with no power and no communications. It was an overwhelming and traumatic experience for many of them. But, in some positive news, the brigade has had an influx of new members, including three new women. Thank you to Deputy Captain Geoff and all of the members who greeted me. It was my pleasure to hear your story. Both of these brigades are strong and resilient, but they want to see change so that they aren't ever put in that situation again. I stand with them. Once more, thank you to all of our Rural Fire Service workers and volunteers for everything you have done this year and always.