Victorian Bushfires – 5AA
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JOURNALIST: The pictures we’re seeing here in Adelaide, I’ve got the local paper here in front of me and there’s a picture of somebody who’s just been told his mother had died in Marysville in the fires. The pictures are heartbreaking, it must be even worse when you’re on the ground.
JENNY MACKLIN: It is horrific for the people who are involved. We were in Whittlesea yesterday which is one of the relief centres where a lot of people from Kinglake had come. A lot of people there were still waiting to hear whether their relatives are safe or not and many of them know that they’ve lost their homes – so devastating for people.
JOURNALIST: What’s going to happen to this area in the future? I know, it’s very early to be looking ahead, but will these areas be rebuilt?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’re really not at that point. At the moment of course the priority is to make sure that people have a safe place to stay. We’re getting emergency payments so that they’ve got clothes and toiletries, providing counselling services to people who may have lost family members or know people in their community. We know we’ve got to get this counselling to the fire fighters as well. All of them of course are volunteers – they know these communities so well.
JOURNALIST: And some of them have lost their own homes as well.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s exactly right, so these are our priorities right now.
JOURNALIST: And what are some of the stories that people are telling you. They must be very harrowing. We took a call from David before, his sister lives in that part of the world, in Kinglake or near it, and she managed to get out but lost her house and she said they were being followed by the fire and it was travelling about 90 kilometres an hour.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s right, really the main stories that everybody is telling us is how little time they had, how fast the fire came upon them, and of course, everybody we spoke to yesterday were just so pleased to have been able to get out with their lives. It is still a very, very worrying time. A lot of people are not identified and the police have a harrowing task in front of them.
JOURNALIST: And the death toll is rising by the hour?
JENNY MACKLIN: It is, because of course, the police are now moving into these communities where so many homes have been burnt to the ground and unfortunately the news is just getting worse.
JOURNALIST: You may not be able to answer this question, but for people listening here in Adelaide who have relatives over there, is there a central point they can contact to find out perhaps if one of their relatives has been involved in someway?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well the best place to ring is really the Victoria Bush Fire Hotline, I don’t know if people have that number?
JOURNALIST: We’ll find that out.
JENNY MACKLIN: If people are wanting to get assistance from Centrelink, there’s money, emergency money available from Centrelink, so if anyone’s listening they can ring the Centrelink Assistance Line and that is 180 22 11 and that assistance will start flowing from today.
JOURNALIST: I know we have to let you go, but what’s you plan for today, what are you up to?
JENNY MACKLIN: The Prime Minister and I are heading out to Marysville and then to Alexandra, there’s a relief centre at Alexandra, so we’ll give support to those who have been so devastated, and I expect a lot of people from Marysville will be in Alexandra.
JOURNALIST: Jenny Macklin, thanks for your time.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Family Services and Communities and the Red Cross Victorian fire information line is 1800 727 077 if you need to make some enquiries. Red Cross Victoria fire information line 1800 727 077.