I would like to start by acknowledging the lives lost to bushfires this season and provide my sincere condolences, and those of our community, to everybody who has been touched all over this nation by fires around the country. I'm sure there's no-one in this House who has not been glued to the ABC coverage of fires, especially over the Christmas-New Year period. At one point it seemed from the New South Wales Fire Service's Fires Near Me app that the whole of the east coast was ablaze. All of us have waited in disbelief as family and friends anticipated fire fronts approaching them, hoping that they heeded the advice to leave. I have seen the devastation and I am constantly amazed at how the fires spared some properties and not the ones next door. It shows the fickle and unpredictable nature of fires and why they must be treated with the utmost respect.
I want to acknowledge all the volunteers in Werriwa who have assisted at many levels and in different areas around the country. I particularly thank Turbans 4 Australia. They've been around the state cooking for RFS volunteers, delivering donations and supporting local communities on the South Coast with barbecues. This is the Australian spirit at its finest.
The electorate of Werriwa is served by two Rural Fire Service brigades, Middleton and Casula. Around 60 volunteers from these brigades have been working since as early as September all around Australia. They've protected, lives, property, livestock and wildlife for months. I had the opportunity to visit the brigades a couple of weeks ago, in the calmer weather, to thank them for what they've been doing as volunteers in our community. They mentioned to me that all the agencies involved in fighting these fires—including New South Wales police, fire and rescue; New South Wales ambulance; the interstate volunteers and international volunteers; and our defence personnel—have been wonderful colleagues. To all those agencies and volunteers, we thank you.
These brigades are families. This is something we see right around the country: lots of volunteer firefighters being families to each other. I want to give particular thanks and support to Casula Rural Fire Brigade Captain David Collins. Mr Collins has been fighting fires around Australia and during the Christmas period with his team. Nearby, in my electorate, in the suburb of Voyager Point, homes came under immediate threat from a sudden explosive bushfire on 5 January. The brigades responded to this fire, and Mr Collins was incident controller. Unfortunately Mr Collins was injured in this fire and is currently recovering. Speaking with Mr Collins and his brigade, I was told that they consider each other their extended family. They come from all walks of life, different ages and different backgrounds: NRMA mechanics, retail sales people, bodybuilders and the unemployed. They told me how incredibly supported they have been by their employers, ensuring that when they returned to work they were rested, and never quibbling about requests for time off. Of course, this is in the large companies. For those who are self-employed or unemployed, volunteering comes at great personal cost, both to them and to their families.
Our volunteers are the best of Australia. They are the true fabric of our community during our hardest and toughest times. During our discussion I was told by both brigades that they work closely with the Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade. This is the brigade that firefighter volunteers Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O'Dwyer, who terribly and tragically lost their lives on the night of 19 December, belonged to. On the day that it happened I contacted Dr Hugh McDermott, the state member for Prospect, who is also a member of the Horsley Park brigade, to convey my condolences and those of our community. Hugh, like his colleagues, has continued to fight fires and was on the fire ground this weekend.
The members of both the Middleton and the Casula rural fire brigades are grieving for their colleagues and their friends. While I can't truly express the sympathy in my heart for all Australians who've lost loved ones, property, livestock and livelihoods, I do send you my deepest sympathy and will do everything possible to ensure that you get what you need to recover as soon as possible. I thank the House.