KANGAROO ISLAND VISIT
The Hon. The Tung NGO (15:46): Many in this chamber and in the other place have spoken about the recent tragic bushfires and devastating losses on Kangaroo Island. Lives were lost, houses were lost, and vehicles, livestock, native animals, pets, farms and forests gone. I expect more destruction would have occurred if not for the island's fearless firefighters.
During these fires, I understand that large CFS trucks could not reach some of the island's fire-impacted areas so volunteers, risking their own safety, used their small and relatively agile fire units to extinguish blazes, saving lives and property. I understand many of the volunteer firefighters are farmers, battling wildfires with their own farm fire units and their personal vehicles, usually small utilities equipped with water tanks. Each farmer pays for their unit's fuel and equipment as well as maintenance and repairs.
In the shadow of these fires, I was honoured to join 75 members of the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia and New Zealand visiting Kangaroo Island. The congregation, having raised over $390,000 from Buddhist members and temples, is assisting fire-ravaged communities around Australia. After learning of Kangaroo Island's devastation, it wanted to help. Local member for Mawson, Mr Leon Bignell MP, who is working tirelessly to support the Kl community, told the congregation about these volunteer farmer firefighters with their 200 or so fire units. Moved by this knowledge, on Monday 24 February, the congregation donated $55,500 to subsidise repairs and maintenance to farm fire units at six island motor mechanics.
Now, hardworking firefighting volunteers may access a $300 payment to help meet servicing and repair costs. We expect about 185 volunteer firefighting vehicles to be serviced through this donation. The congregation's visit also helped Kangaroo Island's economy, booking out local eateries, buying Kl products and taking the ferry. However, perhaps more importantly, the congregation gave islanders hope and lifted spirits. As a Vietnamese Australian, the support given by the congregation fills me with pride. Seeing other Vietnamese people extend their arms to help others during such a difficult time for our country reciprocates the kindness we received as refugees arriving in Australia.
Once a refugee, I wholeheartedly understand and appreciate why many migrants seek to repay Australia's generosity in welcoming us. Our gratitude is also understood by our next generation born here, on this occasion exemplified by over 20 young dancers from the popular Phap Hoa Lion Dance group. The troupe performed spectacularly on KI after the congregation held a prayer ceremony for locals. These amazing young people contributed $5,500 from their troupe savings to the donation.
I was proud to be part of this special occasion and I thank everyone involved. I especially thank the firefighters and volunteers who worked so hard during the over 40 days of blazes and the clean-up; the 75 Vietnamese Buddhist monks, nuns and followers who visited KI; Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang from the Quang Duc Monastery in Victoria; and Senior Venerable Thich Vien Tri and Ms Lan Nguyen from Phap Hoa Vietnamese Buddhist Temple for their dedication, passion and support in driving this initiative.
Lastly, I will share a message of thanks from a KI business, demonstrating the impact of the congregation's visit. I quote:
Josh and I are still so warm with love and with tears of joy after today. Thank you. We lost everything on 3rd Jan and after today you have helped us to realise we have lost nothing but gained everything. You have today made our very difficult time so much easier and today was just magical and you have all helped us to focus on what is important… love, balance and the blessing of incredible support and people plus two very special and adorable lions. From the bottom of our hearts. Lucy and Josh.