I’ve been on the road these last few weeks talking to the people, families and communities that have been ravaged by the bushfires. I’ve been hearing people’s experiences - how the disasters affected them and their loved ones and what they need to start the journey to recovery. There’s no doubt these are stories of immense pain and loss - I stand with our bushfire affected communities with a heavy heart. But these are also stories of survival. Stories of strength. And for me, the Agency and all levels of Government, the opportunity to make sure these become stories of recovery.
From Wingello to the Blue Mountains, to the South Coast and to Sale, I’ve been getting out and listening. Australia and Australians are known for being tough. We overcome. We help our mates. But what’s struck me in the short time I’ve been speaking to local people is that our communities are proud. Our communities are incredibly resilient. Our communities want to rebuild, better and stronger than before.
In NSW alone, we’ve lost more than 2,000 houses in the bushfires. That’s a devastating fact. But what’s also true is that 18,000 homes in NSW have been saved thanks to the heroic effort of our firefighters, emergency responders and the communities themselves.
On my trip to the Blue Mountains this week, I stopped at the Campbell Rhododendron Gardens in Blackheath. I was taken on a walk through the fire ravaged Gardens. Left behind was charcoal earth, dried out debris and in place of rhododendron blooms, blackened bushes.
But as I looked closer, I couldn’t help but notice the smallest sprouts of green. Already, there were tiny signs of renewal - nature regenerating even from scorched earth. I was reminded that from little things, big things grow. I know we’re faced with a huge challenge. Recovery for our people and communities is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. I’m committed to helping our communities get through this, and rebuild better than before – whatever that takes.