Victoria Bushfires

I am proud of the organisations, the companies and the schools that did not turn away and of the people who opened their wallets, their purses and their hearts to the people of Victoria, whether it is the Chinese community in Cabramatta, who raised more than $50,000 in one night, or the Vietnamese communities in Cabramatta and Bankstown, who did the same, whether it is the men and women who organised these events-people like Dr Lu Vinh Binh, Dr Sang, To Kim Chau, Bui Duc Hung, Tania Huynh and Vinh Trang, Quang Van Truong, Truc Quan, Dang Kim Ngoc, Nguyen Xuan Nhi, Nguyen Van Thuat, Than Van and HenryTran-or the woman at Cabramatta railway station who threw $50 at me and said, ‘Make sure it goes to someone who needs it,’ or the man I met at Bankstown railway station who cried as he gave me 60c, saying that that was all he had to give. So many individuals, so many groups and so many businesses gave so much. John Staples and the Yagoona Lions hit the ground and raised $12,500; Ken Chapman and the Cabramatta Lions stood on street corners and raised $6,800; Ted Goetz and the 1st Bass Hill Scouts baked cakes and pulled together over $1,000; the Cabravale Diggers raised $70,000; the Bankstown Sports Club donated $10,000, plus beds, linen, chairs and tables; the Bankstown RSL raised $2,000; and Bankstown Bunnings raised over $9,500. The Red Cross stood at the front of Bunnings and raised $300, and the SES stood inside and did the same.

In every school, students gave of their time, energy and pocket money. The 52 schools in my electorate all together raised over $90,000. The Lansvale Public School collected more than just money; they collected messages from the students in four condolence books: one for the people of Victoria and one each for the schools destroyed in the fires-Marysville, Strathewen and Middle Kinglake. These are just a few of the stories of just a few of the people who opened their hearts. There are many others. Together they raised more than $250,000.

This is the real Western Sydney, not the one that we too often read about in the newspapers or see on television. Julio Grutillini, the President of the Cabramatta Community Centre, turned 73 years of age three Tuesdays ago. Standing with me at the Cabramatta railway station in the rain, he told me that the fundraising he had witnessed was the best birthday present ever. The generosity of so many filled his heart with joy. Nothing that we can do will restore the lives lost, but we can help to rebuild the lives of those that have been broken. The people that I represent know this. So many of them have fled war in search of a new and better life in Australia. They are the proof that we can rebuild and that in the midst of great suffering life can begin again. Their generosity is proof of the unyielding and ever-renewing Australian spirit.’