All Victorians, indeed all Australians and caring people globally, have been devastated by the current bushfire crisis occurring in Victoria, NSW and surrounding states.
I want to begin by thanking all members of the Emergency Services who have put their own lives at risk to serve their communities. The CFA, SES, VicPol, EMV and others have pushed through their exhaustion, performing heroic efforts in terrifying circumstances.
Indeed, some have lost their lives in this service, and my deepest condolences go to their families, friends and communities. They will grieve long after the scars of these fires begin to heal. My heart also goes out to those people who have lost family members caught with no way out. Their grief is unimaginable.
The loss of native wildlife, companion animals and animals used in agriculture is of an enormous scale, and the nation is grieving for them. At the same time, people and communities have shown incredible resilience by extending themselves to those in need, donating their time and care as well as money, clothing, and food. The care and concern shown towards animals has been just as profound, particularly for wild animals as it is predominantly their home and habitat that has been destroyed.
I have brought the community’s concerns regarding wildlife to the Government, and have also been advocating directly on behalf of those animals. The fires have decimated the population of many species. To that end, I called on the Government to immediately halt the ‘culling’ of kangaroos, wombats and other natives. I have specifically asked them to stop the kangaroo ‘harvesting’ program. For kangaroos to be burning on one side of the state whilst being shot at on the other is horrifying and I don’t believe we should have created that industry in the first place. Kangaroos are deeply connected with and beneficial to this land, and sacred to First Nations people. All species of wildlife are now vulnerable, and we need to give them a chance to recover.
Thankfully, the Government has heeded my concerns regarding kangaroos and I will continue to fight for other species of wildlife as well.
I recently chaired a meeting with Emergency Services leaders in my region to advance plans for a co-ordinated, professional response to fire emergency for wildlife. I am advocating for a framework that sees the efforts of rescuers and carers recognised and valued; a framework that recognises their extensive knowledge and input which is imperative to native species survival in Victoria; a framework that recognises the work, advocacy and needs of wildlife shelters and sanctuaries during disasters. These discussions are well advanced, and I hope to have more news for you soon.
I have been hands on as much as I can during this time, working with my constituents to collect and deliver food and medical supplies for wildlife in Bairnsdale and Churchill. I will continue this work as fire grounds reopen in the coming months
I am also working with the Government to get areas opened up to rescuers as soon as possible, as soon as it is safe. I know there are many volunteers who are eager to start providing assistance to animals and to aid in their rehabilitation, recovery and release. For now the best way to help is to follow the advice of your local wildlife shelter and to make donations to trusted funds, where you can.
Please visit this page for a list of organisations to donate to and volunteer with. Remember, it is important that you coordinate any material donations with the relevant shelter/group before visiting drop off locations. This is to ensure we can work together in the most effective way, for the animals.
Lastly, I want to remind everyone to prioritise their safety during this time. Please do not enter onto fire grounds before they are deemed safe. A huge thank you to everyone for your passion, dedication and care as we move forward together.