I want to publicly thank the many volunteers and organisations who helped in the response to the South West Fires nearly two weeks ago.
100 kilometre per hour winds whipped the landscape into a blazing frenzy with locals literally escaping fireballs by just seconds.
The fires destroyed 26 homes, 63 sheds and livestock were lost in the thousands.
More than 2000 sheep – probably closer to 3000 – were destroyed. More than 1000 cattle died – 80 per cent of which were dairy cows.
It is devastating. The animal losses, alone, are cruel – they represent not just the loss of that animal, but also the time and investment that went into them prior to the fires.
The Cobden peat fire continues to cause disruptions and concern for the aged, young and those with vulnerable health conditions. Students in the area are either temporarily attending other schools safe from the peat impacts or are staying at home.
290 properties have been burnt, totalling around 15,000 hectares of land. There are 2000 kilometres of fencing that need to be replaced.
70 of the farms devastated by the fires were dairy farms.
It is the first fire in Victorian to devastate an intensive agricultural area for some time – it has exposed the impacts of lack of power and water.
We must help these farmers get back into action – and I thank those organisations, neighbours and volunteers who are already well involved in that process – including those who have supplied fodder. 120 farms have been the recipients of such generosity.
While politicians parade at these times and love to be seen amongst the ashes, it is the nameless helpers, or the lifetime neighbours who deserve our thanks and praise.
The people who give of themselves without need for thanks or fame are the ones who truly represent who we are – and who we want to be – as Australians.
To those recovering from the loss, we wish you well, rest and resilience. We stand by to help.