BUSHFIRES

Mr PEARSON (Essendon)- I rise to support the Premier’s motion today, and at the outset I wish to pass on my condolences to the five families who lost loved ones through these recent blazes. I do want to place on the record my thanks to our emergency services family for the outstanding contribution that they have made over very trying and difficult circumstances and conditions. I think it is also incumbent on me and those on this side of the house to place on the record our thanks and our gratitude for the service shown and the leadership shown by both the Premier and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Under what are incredibly trying and difficult conditions, both the Premier and the minister made an outstanding contribution, which was evident on the national stage.

So very often incidents of tragedy and great adversity bring together people in amazing ways. Never has this been more important than during the bushfire emergency. I am enormously proud of the contribution that members of my community made to support those communities impacted.

I want to acknowledge the team from Friend In Me for their work in creating the We Are One bushfire relief concert at Windy Hill. I want to thank Athletics Essendon for the bushfire relief fun run, which I, as well as the Minister for Corrections, participated in on Sunday. I want to thank the Strathmore Cricket Club and other organisations for the bushfire disaster appeal fundraiser which occurred in the immediate aftermath of these fires, the small businesses across the electorate who donated tips and had donation buckets at their businesses, and the very many pubs and bars that also held events which made a great contribution, including Ascot Vale Cellars. I want to thank the entrepreneurs in Ascot Vale on Union Road who held a garage sale in an empty shop space as well as acknowledge the role that service clubs and organisations like Rotary have played in supporting these communities and also the locals who showed that initiative to try and find food to donate to Foodbank so that people in these communities could eat.

I think it is also important to acknowledge the great contribution of the North Melbourne mosque. It is not in my electorate—it is in the electorate of Melbourne—but many members of the North Melbourne mosque would be some of the poorest members in my community, and they raised $5000 for this community.

I do want to also briefly talk about Kathy Mikkelsen. Kathy is a constituent of mine. She found herself down at Mallacoota. There were six adults, six children and three dogs, and they left Mallacoota and ended up finding their way to Bega on New Year’s Eve last year. They decided they were going to sleep in an underground car park at Woolworths when a Sudanese refugee, who was the trolley boy, named Ibrahim, said, ‘Look, don’t stay here tonight. Come to my place.’ He offered his home for the night, which was a tiny flat above a fish and chip shop. This was picked up in the Guardian, so I will read this into Hansard:

“He found us all beds and his girlfriend cooked us all a big meal,” Mikkelsen wrote on Facebook. “We sheltered there the night and played music with the only instruments we had, a recorder, a ukulele, some spoons and two flashlights for the light show. The couple told us it was the best New Year’s Eve they had ever had.”

To the impacted communities I say that we stand with you and that we will work with you as you go through this process of rebuilding your communities. We are all in this together, and