Defence Bushfire Briefing
17 January 2020
ELLWOOD: Good afternoon.
Look, at this stage, this will be the last update I will provide in this format unless circumstances should change, but I would highlight that there will still be updates and information provided on the Defence, Twitter and Facebook sites. We currently have 6,500 personnel operating in the three different states. We have 300 international forces, arranging from Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and Fiji. We are currently, supporting the Victorian Government in their plans for placing personnel or civilians back into Mallacoota, those who are evacuated, and I would also note that the Choules is in Sydney undertaking resupply, but that HMAS Adelaide remains in location in the vicinity between Eden and Mallacoota to respond as required, as the situation requires.
Today, I'm going to focus on South Australia. Obviously, I provided focus areas are NSW and Victoria in the last two days. So from a human face, we've had so many stories, but some that I guess really resonated. We had an orchard owner in the Adelaide Hills who had had his property badly damaged and ADF members went to assist in the clearing of debris and he was so thankful. He said that he felt that two days of work by ADF personnel had saved him three months of hard toil and he was exceptionally thankful.
We had another orchard owner also in the Adelaide Hills whose son was badly burnt in an attempt escaping from the fires and, of course, he was absolutely devastated and we provided pastoral care to him and have obviously gotten him in touch with the appropriate civil authorities and support to help him through and I highlight that, because it is going to be a difficult road for many and I encourage everyone who needs that support to reach out and ask for help.
We had a family, two families in fact, on Kangaroo Island who they had lost one of their houses. So, two families in one house and all the water pipes had been destroyed so they had no water and that same day, ADF members quickly went on scene with 1,000 litres of water so that they could sustain.
And then many would already be aware of the story of Lieutenant Lang whose uncle and cousin were killed in the fires on Kangaroo Island and despite this absolute tragedy, he answered the nation's call and is still serving with the ADF on Kangaroo Island. So look, in terms of the tasks that have been completed or, in fact, are ongoing in South Australia, we have cleanup going on, fodder resupply, provision of water, root clearance, pastoral support, supporting the wildlife and many would have seen the images of the devastation of the wildlife, particularly on Kangaroo Island and the support that the ADF has provided there. Support to fencing, livestock burial, catering for the emergency management services, and provision of fire breaks.
In terms of statistics and again, statistics don't tell half the story we have 1200 personnel in Adelaide sorry, in South Australia at the moment. We have 664 reservists serving, 47 international forces and they are New Zealand engineers. We have assistance in terms of assistance to fire break construction, 137 kilometres and the total amount of water that we have provided to the community equates to around 1.8 million litres of water, which is significant. And on Monday through to Thursday we provided two Chinooks to provide additional support to emergency management services and the community on Kangaroo Island.
So, the task continues. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the ADF and the families of those who've moved at very short notice to provide support to our emergency management services and our communities and we understand that this has and continues to impact individuals. We will manage very closely people on an individual basis and provide them with the support that they require and to make sure that they are managed well and I would like to finish by really, where I started, where we all started on this journey when the surge began, by acknowledging the outstanding work of the Emergency Management Services, the volunteers and indeed, the communities across the board. I mean, I couldn't be prouder to be an Australian and I must say, you know, today I've never been as proud to be a member of our Australian Defence Force.
Are there any questions?