The tragic and devasting impact of the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island fires and the fires that ravaged the East Coast of Australia destroying homes, lives and wild life was unprecedented in Australia’s history.
The response of volunteer and paid firefighters, and the community efforts, were the stuff the Australian mateship is renowned for. The Australian psyche though has been injured by the lack of support and empathy from the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his climate denialist government and conservative cross-bench. But from every tragedy we learn and reflect on the efforts of those who contributed and the need for resources both funded and passive, whether that means more equipment and resources for the CFS (SA) or the RFS in NSW.
It also demonstrates the need for a domestic fleet of vessels that can be called upon in the event of an emergency.
In South Australia, MUA members on Sealink Ferries worked above and beyond to the point of exhaustion to ensure residents and tourists on Kangaroo Island could be evacuated safely. Sealink members also transported the required machinery and apparatus including army personnel and equipment to assist in fighting the fires. Sealink needs to be acknowledged for their efforts in ensuring all vessels were manned and available despite some logistical headaches. Elsewhere in Australia Oil Rig Supply Vessels were also utilised for evacuations and our members and those of the AMOU & AIMPE have been praised for their professionalism, empathy and assistance in the face of adversity. When Scott Morrison finally responded, our members employed on the Navy training vessel Sycamore were also deployed to assist in evacuations from towns where the fire was lapping the ocean.
The MUA has started a campaign for the Government to purchase the Aurora Australis, which finishes its Antarctic 30 years of service this year as an emergency vessel. Further the MUA and ACTU established a fund to assist those affected by the fires, which has been supported by many union members who have given generously. This fund was to provide immediate relief of emergency accommodation, clothing, food, transportation, or assistance where members could not work as they recovered from the bush fires. If you are from South Australia and are in need of support as a result of bush fire damage, please contact the branch for assessment of your claim. Our thoughts are with every Australian who has been impacted by these devastating fires.