International Firefighters Day and Family Violence – Candlelight Vigil

Adjournment – International Firefighters Day and Family Violence – Candlelight Vigil

4 May 2022

[6.15 p.m.]

Mrs PETRUSMA (Franklin – Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management) – Mr Speaker, I rise to speak on International Firefighters Day, also known as St Florian’s Day.  I and quite a few other members of this House attended the memorial service at the Hobart Fire Station today. 

The date of 4 May was chosen for Saint Florian’s Day as it is linked to the feast of Saint Florian who was the first known commander of a firefighting squad in the Roman Empire.  Florian was a high-ranking Roman army officer in the Roman province of Noricum and is now known as the patron saint of firefighters.  He was the first known commander of a firefighting squad in the Roman Empire.  He lost his life as did his colleagues in protecting the same values which firefighters all over the world share today, to protect life in their community.

Today is a very special day for those in our firefighting family.  It is a day for honouring our firefighters who demonstrate bravery and commitment each and every day.  Saint Florian’s Day is a time for communities to come together to recognise career and volunteer firefighters who have gone above and beyond showing incredible acts of bravery in protecting the community.  It is a day to pause and give thanks and to reflect on those who serve.  Those who help to protect us and save us at times when we are at our most vulnerable.

It is important that we recognise the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices of our firefighters that they make each and every day to serve their communities – all for people they do not know, but who they have sworn to serve and protect.

Ms O’Connor – Hear, hear.

Mrs PETRUSMA – Our firefighters do not undertake these roles for recognition – they do it because they care about their loved ones and they care about their community.  They dedicate countless hours to ensure we are kept safe.

The role of firefighters has evolved over the years and today they respond to a diverse range of challenging incidents such as house fires, bushfires, hazardous material incidents, road crashes, and technical and specialist rescues.  While our firefighters are well trained, well equipped and have good safety systems in place, they still operate in a high-risk environment in their quest to protect lives and property.  Invariably, there are times in our firefighters’ lives when they will put themselves in harm’s way all for the sake of others.

Today, we pause and remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in protecting their community.  In particular, our 16 Tasmanian firefighters who have sadly died whilst on duty between 1859 and 2022.  This year we especially remember Mr Andrew Kerr and Mr Michael Dennison who will be honoured formally during the National Emergency Services Memorial Service in Canberra, this Friday 6 May.  The Chief Officer will attend Canberra for the memorial service where Andrew and Michael’s name will be inscribed on the National Emergency Services Memorial to ensure they are remembered eternally.  Our sincerest condolences and heartfelt thoughts are with the family, loved ones, friends and colleagues of our firefighting heroes.

Today, I and other members attended the commemorative service at the Hobart Fire Station to lay a wreath and remember Andrew and Michael and all of our firefighters who have made the ultimate sacrifice in serving and protecting our communities.  We stood together in deep respect for firefighters and provided tribute to those who have fallen.  It is my hope and I know it is all of this parliament’s hope, that at the end of every shift every firefighter goes home safely.

Ms O’Connor – Hear, hear.

Mrs PETRUSMA – On behalf of all of us here tonight I thank our career and volunteer firefighters for their ongoing dedication and commitment to ensure the Tasmanian community is cared for and protected.  From the bottom of all our hearts our sincerest thanks to all of our firefighters for their commitment, service and dedication to keeping all of us safe.

On the parliament lawns right now, there is a candlelight vigil, which is held on the first Wednesday in May every year.  It is happening right around Australia and it is to remember those who have died because of domestic and family violence.  I want to thank the Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee for organising tonight, as well as Betsy and the outstanding Nourish choir who each and every year attend as well as James, the police piper, but also Xavier, Mon and Louisa for also sharing with us tonight their own lived experience of being new entrants and people seeking asylum and the issues they face in regards to family violence.

I thank everyone who is at the vigil tonight because they were showing their strong stance that enough is enough – that family violence in Tasmania must stop.  It was very poignant to note, just to pause and remember and honour those whose lives have been lost and who have tragically died because of family violence.  On average, one woman is tragically killed in Australia by a former or intimate partner every week and we are already in the 18th week of 2022 and tragically already in 2022, 18 women’s lives have been lost due to family violence at the hands of a current or an ex-partner.  What is even more worrying is one in five people still believe there are situations in which women still bear some responsibility for the violence.  These are our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our sisters, our aunts, our friends, our neighbours, and our colleagues.  The simple truth is there is never an acceptable excuse or reason for violence against any Tasmanian.  I want to thank everyone for turning up tonight, because as a community we do need to speak out.  There should be no family or sexual violence in Tasmania.

We need to stop treating family violence as a private matter.  Family violence behind closed doors can go on for many years.  In some cases, it only ends with death.  Tonight, it was good to hear from Xavier, Mon, and Louisa about the additional barriers to getting support that our asylum seekers, temporary visa-holders, and people from our CALD community face, in understanding their rights and in getting support.  People with disability, our LGBTIQ+ Tasmanians, people in rural and regional Tasmania and Tasmanian Aboriginal people and people from all socioeconomic groups face difficulties in getting the support and services they need.  I say to them all tonight to come forward and please report so we can hold perpetrators to account and they can get the support and services they need.  Our vision is a Tasmania free from violence for all Tasmanians.