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Their Strength and Optimism was Inspirational: Anne Webster

"their strength and optimism was inspirational."

So said Australian Parliamentarian Anne Webster speaking in Parliament about the floods in her electorate and the heroism of three women, Kaye Graham, Colleen Young and Sue Horsley.

Specifically addressing the Newbridge Recreation Reserve Committee of Management, Anne said, "In Newbridge, amid the sodden ruins of a multimillion-dollar sporting complex, I met three women: Kaye Graham, Colleen Young and Sue Horsley. They are members of the Newbridge Recreation Reserve Committee of Management. While the recreation reserve was hit hard by floods, their strength and optimism was inspirational. Colleen herself proved a heroine in the truest definition, not that she wanted the title, but her actions can only be described as heroic. The night the floods hits Newbridge, they had 40 young men camping by the river on a buck's party. Naturally, these men were all focused on partying, and, as they were in their swags, they were in immediate danger. Colleen ensured they got to higher ground as the floodwaters rose during the night. It is troubling to think what might have happened had she not been there to help these men. As I said at the start of this speech, the term 'hero' does get bandied about a lot, but I have found in Mallee that we have many heroes, and these are just some."

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The Full Speech

The term 'hero' gets bandied about a lot, but sometimes it is well and truly deserved. The past week and a half of floods that have been impacting the regions of Mallee and lapping at the doors of many communities in Mallee have seen heroes arise. I've heard from people in Charlton still traumatised from the 2011 floods. I've heard from people such as Prue Milgate, who has a farm on the banks of the Loddon River at Serpentine. More than 98 per cent of the Milgate farm was inundated by floods. I've heard from business owners in Bridgewater who have had to rebuild after their shops were affected. Nine of my 12 LGAs are impacted, and there will be more as floodwaters encroach further in the coming weeks.

In these communities, there are heroes, people who stand up for their community no matter what the situation. They just roll up their sleeves and get the work done. They don't want to be known as heroes, though. Mallee people are like that. They're tough and resourceful, but they don't look for the accolades or the praise; they just act in the best interests of their community, people like John McConville, or Mr Donald as he's also known. John is a typical hard worker, and in Donald he has his finger in many pies and on the pulse of the needs of the community. He's the kind of person that doesn't command respect; he simply gets it. After only five minutes talking with him, I know he deserves it. Recently, John led a team of locals to build a levee in the township of Donald that saved businesses and homes from being inundated. He and his team didn't wait for help; they just did it themselves.

In the Gannawarra Shire, Geoff Rollinson is the council's acting CEO. He's also known as Rollo. It's a paid position, but he's going over and above. He's taking the lead, proactively leading his community through some of the toughest times they have faced, places like Kerang, Koondrook, Murrabit, Cohuna, Benjeroop. I spoke with residents there, and they couldn't speak more highly of Rollo. He's someone they can trust. Sometimes local government officers get the rough end of the stick from their communities, but Rollo has earned respect through his actions. In times that require your leaders to step up, Rollo has.

Our SES and CFA volunteers along with paid emergency services such as Victoria Police and ambulance officers are also the heroes in this unfolding story. Stretched thin as they are, they consistently continue to put their community above themselves. I sat in a community meeting at Carisbrook a couple of weeks ago for a debrief following their flood event. It was a room full of emotion, and it was local SES commander Darren Cooper, a volunteer himself, facing the brunt of it. Not only were he and his colleagues taking responsibility, as the SES, for the town of Carisbrook; they were also providing SES support for the Central Goldfields Shire region. With limited resources, including a scarcity of operational boots-on-the-ground volunteers, they did their best to ensure their communities were safe.

In Newbridge, amid the sodden ruins of a multimillion-dollar sporting complex, I met three women: Kaye Graham, Colleen Young and Sue Horsley. They are members of the Newbridge Recreation Reserve Committee of Management. While the recreation reserve was hit hard by floods, their strength and optimism was inspirational. Colleen herself proved a heroine in the truest definition, not that she wanted the title, but her actions can only be described as heroic. The night the floods hits Newbridge, they had 40 young men camping by the river on a buck's party. Naturally, these men were all focused on partying, and, as they were in their swags, they were in immediate danger. Colleen ensured they got to higher ground as the floodwaters rose during the night. It is troubling to think what might have happened had she not been there to help these men. As I said at the start of this speech, the term 'hero' does get bandied about a lot, but I have found in Mallee that we have many heroes, and these are just some.

I want to speak briefly about the currently unfolding flood emergencies going on in the Swan Hill LGA and the Mildura region. We're looking at Swan Hill, Mildura and Robinvale, in fact, hitting major flood levels this week and in the next couple of weeks. Boundary Bend is also expected to exceed major flood levels this Saturday. The last major flood level we had was in 1956. We also had high flood levels in the seventies. This is deeply concerning, but I've got to give all credit to the SES, the CFA and the local councils, of course, who are monitoring these situations, providing recommendations and working with local communities, having local knowledge.

We have a long way to go yet. Some of these floods in the past have taken months to recede. We will have highways closed. We currently have 450 roads in Victoria closed right now. This is creating a headache for transport companies and for locals trying to get to work. Many people can't get to work. I'm really pleased to see both the Victorian government and the federal government providing financial support. I also commend the Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt, a Senator for Queensland, for his engagement. I've been able to call him and talk through with him the needs and the funding resources that are required for my nine LGAs. He and his office have been very responsive, and I thank him for that.

As we go into these next few weeks, I know people in Mildura, Swan Hill and Robinvale are going to be feeling the same anxieties that those in Kerang, Benjeroop, Koondrook and down in Carisbrook have been feeling over this last month and a half. Together, we understand that we will get through this and the supports will be provided. I would encourage anyone in my electorate who is needing support over this next week to contact my office, and we can direct them to the appropriate supports.

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