Blaxland Electorate: Disaster Response

Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (10:18): Merry Christmas, everybody. This is my last speech in this place for this year, so I want to use the opportunity to thank everybody in my local community who has done so much to help us get through this year from hell—doctors, nurses, ambulance officers, cleaners, scientists, cops, teachers, childcare workers, aged-care workers, truckies, taxi drivers, bus drivers and lots more. They’ve reminded us just who does the most important jobs in our local community. What’s that old saying? Not all heroes wear their undies on the outside. A lot wear uniforms. A lot wear name badges and lab coats. So thank you. Thank you for helping to keep us safe.

I also want to thank everyone in my community who went and got a COVID test when they felt a bit crook, everyone who followed the rules and everybody who gave up so much. We didn’t just miss out on going to the footy and going to parties this year; a lot of us missed out on going to funerals, and we missed each other. There have been some ordinary moments—politicians fighting over borders; people fighting over bog rolls—but they’ve been the exception. This year we’ve really proved what an extraordinary country we are—and it’s not just how we’ve fought off the worst of the pandemic. This year we also had to fight fires that killed billions of animals, destroyed millions of hectares, incinerated thousands of homes and killed at least 34 Australians and Americans. In the aftermath of that, as the smoke cleared, my community shone again.

I’ve spoken before in this place about some of the extraordinary things that my community did to help others who’d lost everything in the fires, and here’s just one more. Majd Chami is a young bloke who lives in my electorate; he’s just turned 18. He did the HSC this year. But he did a lot more than that. He works at Berala Woolies and he’s the customer service manager there. When the bushfires torched the South Coast of New South Wales, he put a small donation box out the front of the store to encourage customers to put things in. The problem was that the box wasn’t big enough, because, within a couple of days, he had enough donations of food and other essentials to fill a truck, and he took the truck down to Ulladulla to help people who’d lost everything.

He did the same thing when Beirut exploded in August—except, in that case, that was a tragedy on the other side of the world, so people couldn’t donate food. So he encouraged people to donate cash and set up a mechanism at the cash register where people could donate. When other Woolies in the area found out, they did the same thing and it extended right across New South Wales. Within a couple of weeks, he’d raised $74,000 for the Red Cross in Lebanon.

It shows the difference one person can make. When the whole community joins in, we can do even more. And we proved that this year.