Mr PASIN (Barker) (19:45): The south-east of South Australia is no stranger to bushfires. We’ve certainly had our fair share. While the memory of Ash Wednesday is still very raw for many in the Limestone Coast community, every fire season firefighters continue to stand ready to defend not only their own properties and their own communities but also those of others.
This summer, fires in South Australia meant we were fighting fires on many fronts, but I want to talk this evening about a fire at Coles in my electorate. It’s 20 kilometres south of Lucindale and 350 kays from Adelaide. This was the Lucindale community’s third fire in three years, following the Killara fire over the new year period in 2020 and the Blackford fire in 2021.
The Coles fire started on 19 January and quickly spread, eventually burning almost 4,000 hectares of blue gums and farmland over four days. There was a significant amount of paddock feed and boundary fencing lost, but luckily no houses and livestock, thanks to the remarkable work of firefighting teams. Tragically, however, CFS volunteer Louise Hincks from the Happy Valley CFS was killed by a falling tree while she was bravely battling the fire. She was a dedicated volunteer who joined that organisation 28 years ago and was known to travel across South Australia to fight fires. Indeed, on this occasion Ms Hincks had travelled the 350km from her home in Adelaide to help the Lucindale community, a truly selfless act, and one that I’m certain the Lucindale community and the broader South Australian community will never forget. I extend my condolences to the Happy Valley CFS crew and to Ms Hincks’s family for their loss. The Country Fire Service is a service made up of selfless individuals just like Ms Hincks, who place themselves in danger to keep others safe. After seeing the fire’s aftermath firsthand a couple of weeks ago, it was clear that without the numerous fire units—from the air and on the ground—that fought this fire, the outcome could have been even worse. To the paid and unpaid professionals who fight fires and keep our communities safe and our homes and assets protected, I say: thank you.
I am proud to represent Barker, where so many are willing to serve their communities when they’re needed the most. In rural and regional Australia we know that we are only as strong as our community, and the Country Fire Service reminds us every day that there are thousands of people in our state at the ready to put themselves in harm’s way to protect others who they probably don’t even know. That is why I’m such a huge supporter of the SA Volunteer Fire Fighters Museum located in Naracoorte. South Australia has a long and proud volunteer firefighting history. Some time ago a group of dedicated volunteers in Naracoorte, led by the unstoppable Rex Hall, undertook to establish a museum to honour that proud history. After many years of planning, including an $18,000 business case funded by the federal government via the Building Better Regions Fund, the museum officially opened in February 2020 on the anniversary of the Ash Wednesday bushfires. The museum specifically aims to research, record, conserve and promote the history and equipment of the South Australian volunteer fire service. The museum is also a constant reminder to all volunteer firefighters, past and present, that we appreciate their dedication and hard work in often dangerous or life-threatening conditions, leaving their own families, their homes and sometimes their communities to help others. I am extremely proud that a coalition government helped to fund stage 1 of the SA Volunteer Fire Fighters Museum in Naracoorte with a grant of $320,000. Rex Hall and the volunteers at the museum are now working towards stage 2, which will incorporate an auditorium, an interactive interpretive centre, administration facilities, meeting facilities and a replica of Naracoorte’s first fire station. I’m supporting Rex and the volunteers at the museum with stage 2 and I’m working here in Canberra to investigate funding opportunities for this second stage.
I think it’s important for our local communities, and indeed the state, to see the museum completed as a tribute and a reminder of the selfless hard work, dedication and sacrifice of our volunteer firefighters. So I will continue to fight to see this funding committed.