Thursday, 4 August 2022

It is my great pleasure to be with you here at ‘Kumatpi Trruku’,  the Emergency Headquarters.

I am delighted you have been given cultural consent to use this name and am inspired by Jordan Lovegrove’s artwork.

Rod and I thank Julia for taking us on a tour of your new facilities just now, bringing together, for the very first time, SAFECOM and the South Australian Country Fire Service, South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service and the South Australian State Emergency Service.

In addition to the spaciousness of these offices, the facilities are impressive, in particular the state-of-the-art command centre.

I trust those present who regularly work in this building are enjoying the new headquarters and the proximity you have to each other.  As you all know, in a crisis, team work matters.

This morning we have gathered to celebrate the recipients of the National Emergency Medal for service undertaken during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

These bushfires were unlike anything we had seen before in Australia.

We all remember where we were then.

From a holiday cottage near McLaren Flat, I watched and checked my app as fires consumed large sections of the Adelaide Hills, destroying homes and livelihoods.

Later, as our house in Canberra was shrouded in smoke from the New South Wales fires, I was horrified to see Kangaroo Island experiencing the worst fires in its history.

Thousands of South Australians were impacted directly by the fires, through injury, loss of property or resources.  Many continue to feel the effects one way or another.

Three people tragically lost their lives.

Indirectly, every South Australian was affected, whether it was watching the horrors unfold on the news, breathing in smoke as it wafted over Adelaide, or knowing family, friends or colleagues who experienced loss.

One positive to come from this very dark time was the focus on, and appreciation for, our emergency service workers.

Employees and volunteers came together and tirelessly, with great courage and determination, worked to protect lives and property, minimise damage and keep the general public safe.

I know from my visits to Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills, that gratitude on the part of those who were helped remains heartfelt.

I congratulate the award recipients here today, all employees of services based in this building, for their outstanding contribution to fighting the bushfires.

Your citations, which we will hear shortly, reveal a broad range of deeply impressive endeavours as part of the bushfire effort.

From IT support to monitoring the mental health of emergency workers; from managing injured firefighters to coordinating the logistics of bulk water carriers, aviation fuel and other resources; I commend you all for the important parts you played in an extraordinarily complex operation here in South Australia.

Today we are also recognising two SES workers who travelled to provide their expertise to interstate fire efforts, and I thank them for this generous action.  Across Australia and our key international partners, that is the SES way.

Tomorrow a second group of emergency employees, who volunteered their time to the bushfire effort, will have their own ceremony.

I extend my congratulations ahead of their presentation.

Lastly, I express my appreciation to families and friends for the sacrifices you make to accommodate and enable the service of our award recipients.

You endure long hours apart from your loved ones, often while concerned for their safety. You provide love and support when your family member or friend experiences the inevitable difficulties and traumas of emergency work.

On behalf of the people of our State, I congratulate and thank all South Australian recipients of the National Emergency Medal.

Rod and I are very proud of, and grateful for, your efforts.