Defence Bushfire Briefing
15 January 2020
ELLWOOD: Good afternoon. So, today, I decided yesterday to provide an update, nationally, about what has been going on in terms of the ADF support to the emergency management services and our community so I thought what I would do over the next three days is provide a focus item on each State. So, today I'll focus on the ADF support in Victoria, tomorrow New South Wales and then on Friday I will do South Australia.
So this morning I intended on travelling out to Wodonga and unfortunately the weather the smoke was too thick to land and I think that tells a story about the difficulties that we still have in terms of providing support and they're very difficult conditions, conditions that our wonderful emergency management services are working in tirelessly to help the community.
So, instead we went to the Joint Task Force headquarters in Victoria and that is based out of Watsonia and we saw some amazing things going on and the ADF firmly focused on supporting our emergency management services and the community writ large. And I thought today, firstly, I'll just talk about a bit of the human face that I have seen and heard of in Victoria.
So, there is Brodie Scott, and I met her when I visited Mallacoota several days ago. She's a driver. She was there repairing a vehicle and I asked about her story and she's a part-time soldier and her home town is Mallacoota and she had heard, obviously knew about the fires. When she heard about the fires she was petrified because of course her mother and father were still in Mallacoota, her father being in the CFS, and so, fortunately, she has had the opportunity to go to Mallacoota to actually serve and she's so happy to be able to serve the community where she comes from and there is a wonderful video on the ADF Facebook site that I could recommend where she actually tells her story.
There is Dick and Elaine Roebuck of Orbost. So, Dick is the President of the Orbost RSL and both of them have served in the military previously and were so emotional when I spoke to them and the emotion was based around their happiness that the Australian Defence force was there to support the emergency management services and the intention was that the soldiers based out of Orbost would eat the ration packs and Dick had different thoughts. He went to provide funding to Op Vet Assist so we have now these veterans who have served previously, providing fresh food to our soldiers and it was a wonderful thing to see that connection between the different generations.
Then today, when I arrived in Victoria, in Melbourne, I met a soldier who just was beaming, so happy to be serving, and then I asked him about his story and he was a part-time soldier and I asked him whether the fires had affected him and he said his brother has lost everything but he was just happy that he could continue to serve in the State that he loves.
Then, finally, I met an officer a lieutenant colonel who was in military attire but found out he was also from the Victorian Police and he is now managing his time, working both as a part-time soldier and then, in other weeks, working in the Victorian police and just so happy to be using the skills he gets in both ends to support these efforts.
So, the work continues in Victoria. We have root clearance, we have fodder distribution, we have pastoral care, logistics support, damage assessment going on. Recently and in fact, as recently as last night we were there to postured to support a possible evacuation out of Tamboona out of Tamboon, I'm sorry, where there were 11 people situated where a fire is going through, it is near Mallacoota and the Victorian police were also on standby. Fortunately, it wasn't required but, again, our ADF were there postured and ready to support. We have provided 12,000L of potable water to Bairnsdale. We've provided the mail to Mallacoota, 13 mail bags have come through.
The Papua New Guinea Defence Force start their work tomorrow and I've worked with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force before. They will work exceptionally hard. I was lucky enough to meet their commander today and I don't think I've ever met anyone quite as enthusiastic as getting into it as he was, and they will be working in the area of Mallacoota. The Fijians will join us on or around the 18th of January and I know they are keen to support.
And we are postured to support the State in bringing those who have been evacuated out of Mallacoota back into Mallacoota but it will be done in absolute concert with the State authorities because it must be understood that there are still issues in terms of supply in Mallacoota and, indeed, roads are still precarious, dangerous, so we are on standby to provide support and we are planning, with the State, to find the right time and provide the right rate of effort.
Lastly, in terms of statistics in Victoria since the beginning of the surge now, I would say at the front that these figures are constantly changing so because things are very fluid it is a very fluid environment. We have 1,633 personnel. We have 848 Reservists. We have 100 from other countries serving there. We have six helicopters but, again, I would reiterate that those helicopters will move to need so there may be more at a time or less at a time. We have two unmanned aerial vehicles. We provided support to six Department of Human Services popups and these will increase in the near term. We have provided thousands of litres of fuel of all types. We have cleared hundreds of kilometres of roads. We have supported 27 affected communities. We have evacuated 1,230 personnel by sea. We have moved 1,118 personnel by air and that is a conglomeration of ADF personnel, civilians and our emergency management services. And we have moved 328,000 pounds of cargo.
The Australian Defence Force remains committed to serving and supporting the wonderful work of our emergency management services and our community and I will say again that the work I've seen of our emergency management services is an absolute inspiration. Are there any questions? No questions. Thank you.