Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:10): It is with much pleasure that I discuss the motion on International Volunteer Day:
That this house—
(a) notes that on 5 December 2022 we celebrate International Volunteer Day;
(b) acknowledges the valuable contribution that volunteers made to the economic and social wellbeing of local communities; and
(c) calls on all South Australians to thank and show their appreciation to all volunteers in our community.
As has already been outlined by the member for Adelaide, the contribution of volunteers is such a valuable contribution to the whole of society no matter at what level that is. It could be as small as helping your neighbour with a small job in the garden or taking their bins out, being a volunteer for either the State Emergency Service or the Country Fire Service, working with community groups such as Rotary or Lions or working with all sorts of aid groups helping those less fortunate.
I do commend the work that all volunteers do at whatever level. Certainly, over the summer we have seen so many volunteers right across the state step up to help people across the regions. Thankfully, as far as firefighting goes, we have not had the really big events. We have had multiple fires across the state, where again we have seen CFS volunteers—and there would have been SES volunteers—as well as farm firefighters battling blazes. We saw some great work done in the Hills fire recently, where the combination of firefighters on the ground plus the air tractors, the new Black Hawk helicopters, and the commitment of people made sure we got right on top of that situation in the Adelaide Hills, which could have been a lot worse.
Right across the board there have been fires across the state. Sadly, harvester fires seem to be a bit of an annual event and something that people have to be mindful of when they are harvesting. Lentils are a bit of an issue with the amount of dust that is built up around a machine. Sometimes things just happen, where a bearing might get hot or something else happens, and the next thing you have a fire on your hands. I must say, when talking with a lot of farmers these days about their firefighting capabilities, people have chaser bins now, the bins that follow up the harvesters, which can have up to 4,000 litres of water on board to have that instant firefighting task right in the field if something happens. That is so vital in the first instance.
Certainly, right up and down the river with the flood event that we have seen over the summer—and it is ongoing, even though we have passed the peak—there is a lot of work to do. I must commend all the volunteers, the many hundreds of CFS and SES volunteers and private volunteers, who have pitched in to do the work, to do the sandbag filling, to assist contractors building earthen banks. There are also the people feeding them, doing the simple things like getting the morning or afternoon teas or getting lunch.
It was great to assist the racing club at Murray Bridge with 36 tonnes of sandbags on top of the levee directly under the Swanport Bridge so they could keep a pump going with a generator once the power went off, as was always going to happen with the water level getting within 4.7 metres of the power lines, so that they could keep up the water to the racetrack. This gets down to an animal welfare issue, to make sure that the ground is watered appropriately for horses to race and train on, apart from drinking water for the horses and other things around the facility.
It was so good to see sandbagging stations at Murray Bridge. I remember one day at Mannum there were some guys who had just come up from Adelaide with the State Emergency Service to make sure they could do their bit to assist communities so that people could get their 20 sandbags. These guys had come up from Adelaide to assist and I really take my hat off to them.
These big events turn into a statewide issue. We have certainly seen it when we have had other big events such as the big fires on Kangaroo Island or even the regional fires, whether it be in the South-East or like those we had 2½ years ago with the Yumali-Netherton fire when the strike teams turned up from either the South-East or the Hills. I know they came from both places. In fact, I saw a truck from well south of Adelaide there at that time.
It shows the true spirit of South Australians and Australians, helping each other to make sure that the job gets done. If it does not happen through volunteers, it would cost whatever government is in charge an enormous amount of money. I believe the government would not be able to fund it. I think the volunteer hours averaged out close to $50 per hour, and that is just in a monetary sense without the sense of achievement that they are doing it for the community. That is something to be truly recognised and celebrated.
Talking about volunteers, there would also have been some paid staff involved in this. With the State Emergency Service, volunteers and paid people would have been involved in some of the swiftwater rescues that had to happen on the river. We had people come down from Queensland to assist with this. They were based in Murray Bridge, and I would say there is a crew still there. An extra helicopter came in from the Eastern States to assist with any potential rescues.
We had a couple of interesting characters—I have used other names such as 'clowns'—who decided to get on air mattresses at Ponde and go for a float. It seems like there are a lot of interesting things that happen out of Ponde. They got into trouble and the swiftwater rescue guys were there to protect them from their own folly. I really take my hat off to them.
We just would not function without the valuable work that volunteers do in whatever capacity. As I said earlier, it does not have to be in these capacities of firefighting or working in flood areas. There are people who volunteer in hospitals and aged care, helping people as they get older and bringing a smile to their face and making their life better.
It is such a good thing to support volunteers, and we need to keep doing it. We need to make sure that volunteers are always ready to come to the big frontline events, such as the flooding that has happened. As I said, there is a lot of work to be done. Some of the work, and I am sure some of this was in volunteer time, was with the pumps to dewater the area around Mannum, around Mary Ann Reserve, when the stormwater was flowing in. Council staff were making sure that the small motors were running at night.
I know I mentioned his name yesterday and you will get sick of me talking about him, but Ben Scales, the Chief Executive Officer of Mid Murray, did his shift manning those pumps at midnight on New Year's Eve for six hours to make sure that they had fuel in them so they could keep pumping the water that was seeping into Mary Ann Reserve and put it back over the levee bank into the river. I want to commend all volunteers. May people all keep volunteering long into the future at whatever level they volunteer at because we truly cherish your service.