22 March 2022

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (17:15): I thank all members who stand today in this Chamber and speak on behalf of their communities for whatever reason. I think we are at our best when we speak from the heart and on behalf of those whose voices need to be heard. I extend my condolences to all those who have suffered losses of any kind. I extend my deepest gratitude to the many souls who have assisted in myriad ways—those who are volunteers and those who are paid professionals. We should not, and we cannot, always rely on volunteers—even though they are the heroes of our communities and they are whom we stand and thank at times like this. Government has a role to play. Government agencies have a role to play. There are echoes of that sentiment, I know, in many communities across New South Wales. Why does government rely more and more on volunteers? It needs to step up.

Many emergency services personnel whom I met during my time as shadow Minister for Emergency Services told me that they are underfunded and under-resourced. They told me that before the Black Summer fires, but they still get in there and do their absolute best. They have done so again with the flood recovery. A couple of our RFS brigades told me about the time they travelled from the upper Blue Mountains to Lismore, turned up at base camp, settled in a bit and then were tasked with a number of jobs. They got out on the road and amongst the communities to attend to those tasks. Fifteen minutes into those tasks they got a call to come back to base camp, not because they had forgotten some resources but because the Prime Minister wanted a photo—and they were furious. They were absolutely furious. In front of hundreds of people, they said, "Bugger that". Excuse me, Madam Deputy Speaker—I could say worse. They turned around and they headed back out to the people for whom they were there.

I note that the floods that have particularly and badly impacted South East Queensland and the Northern Rivers of New South Wales have been devastating. That loss and that heartbreak is felt by a number of communities, but particularly by those in the flood zones. And it is profound. The floods came so fast that people had no time to evacuate. The people from that area whom I met during the fires told me how they climbed into roof cavities and onto rooftops and sat and listened to people drowning. Lives were lost. Homes and lifetimes of memories were washed away. What is left behind is a huge clean-up job—a huge recovery job—and heartbreak, despair and the stench of a flood that has left people shattered and those towns changed forever.

It is important for me to note that, in the absence of timely government support and adequate boots on the ground to assist, members of the community rose to the challenge. It was a citizen-led effort in recovery. We have all seen images of the sculpture in downtown Lismore—a big red heart held up out of the floodwaters by giant hands—and the symbolism of that is profound. People are broken. Lives are broken. But there is so much more to do beyond us talking about it today to mitigate the effects of climate-induced disasters. That is what we have to attend to. Disaster preparedness is crucial if we are going to survive in the face of adversity. We are going to deal with these events again and again because of climate change. These events are not unprecedented; they will keep happening. In the few moments remaining to me, I note that the Blue Mountains is still suffering the impact of the flood event, with our roads in disrepair, our rail line down and people struggling.