Every year on 4 May we recognise International Firefighters’ Day, where we show our appreciation for those who selflessly protect people, communities and properties every day of the year. Today I will be in Healesville to honour and remember the 79 Victorian firefighters who have lost their lives while working to keep us safe.
It is important to consider the risk Victorian firefighters take every time they step onto the fireground. My thoughts today are with the families and friends of each and every one of those individuals who have lost their lives - we will always be grateful to those who have put themselves in harm’s way during difficult and dangerous situations, in the interests of their local communities. Our wonderful state is also one of the most fire-prone areas in the world. We live in a challenging natural environment, which makes the efforts and achievements of our firefighters all the more remarkable.
It is a year of significant fire anniversaries. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, the 50th anniversary of the Southern Aurora train accident and Lara fires, the 76th anniversary of the Tarrawingee Fires in which 10 firefighters died in the line of duty, and the 80th anniversary of the 1939 Black Friday fires which led to the establishment of CFA, to name a few.
The Victorian emergency management sector, and the community, has learnt and improved from every fire we have encountered over the years. We’ve learnt the importance of change, with a focus on the health and wellbeing of our people in particular. Taking steps to ensure the mental health of our people has been especially critical.
While we remember and honour those we have lost, it is also important to recognise our successes. Whether it’s exciting innovations like improving Victoria’s night firebombing capability, or simply displaying the commitment and pride in their job that Victorian firefighters are famous for, our firefighters do a truly remarkable job.
For many of us, it is difficult to understand the impact that losing a loved one in these circumstances can have. There are a range of wellbeing and support services available, and I encourage all who are affected this weekend to reach out and take advantage of these.
Once again, well done to all past and present firefighters who have protected life, communities and property over the years – on behalf of the emergency management sector, I thank you for your service.
We will continue to look to the future, without ever forgetting our past.