SPEECH

House of Representatives

Today I recognise the brave staff of the Walwa Bush Nursing Centre who showed such extraordinary dedication to their community in the recent fires.

On December 30, 2019, fires bore down on the tiny Upper Murray township of Walwa. All telecommunications, radio and electricity was lost, cutting it off from the outside world.

As the only place with power, the Centre rapidly transformed into a relief centre for those who stayed to protect their farms and defend the town. Many took refuge inside.

The fires returned twice more. Nursing staff slept on the floor to be on call 24/7. The Centre’s generator kept its fridge and freezer going, allowing it to provide over 600 meals to firefighters and the community.

When I met chief executive officer and nurse practitioner Sandi Grieve, she’d been working for 16 days straight, sometimes bandaging up farmers in the back of a ute so they could get straight back to feeding stock and fixing fences.

Funding for her service stops at the NSW border, only five kilometres away. But bushfires, and health care for those affected, has no border. It’s time we answer calls from Sandi and her community for flexible funding to services that help people on both sides.

The Centre exists because of its tough, independent and tight-knit community. In these fires, the Centre has returned the favour in care, shelter, compassion and hugs.

They weren’t equipped for this kind of emergency. But in the spirit of rural Australia, it did whatever it took to serve their community.

Read Sports rorts: spiralling crisis of trust