Burt's Bushfires and Community achievements

House of Representatives - Adjournment

Watch Matt's speech here

Last week an out-of-control bushfire started near Tonkin Highway in the City of Armadale, causing the evacuation of hundreds of residents across Forrestdale, Harrisdale and Piara Waters, closing schools, and burning more than 150 hectares of land. I'd like to thank the around 200 volunteer and career firefighters who worked in very challenging conditions for days to get the fire contained and controlled. It is from your hard work in the hot and windy conditions that no lives or homes were lost. Thank you also to everyone from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, the SES, the Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Communities, the Salvation Army, and the fantastic City of Armadale for keeping everyone safe and informed as the fire took hold—and for the amazing generosity of locals who provided refuge not only for displaced people but for pets and livestock.

I visited the evacuation centre and saw firsthand the impressive coordination of emergency services with local government. I commend Mayor Henry Zelones for the fire action plan he helped to coordinate for the community following the catastrophic Kelmscott fires in 2011. The Kelmscott fires remain fresh in the minds of everyone in my community, including my own family. Last week's fire certainly provided an unwelcome flashback for many. The work of all of our emergency services and our community coming together last week shows we've learnt so many lessons from that tragedy, and I commend everyone who contributed to the fire efforts.

The community of Burt is one that is resilient, diverse and ever-evolving. While some people, like my family, have lived in the area for a number of generations, much of our community is made up of new citizens of Australia. In fact, the population of the electorate of Burt has encountered unprecedented growth in recent years. Many suburbs that exist today were mere paddocks when I was a child. Indeed, some housing developments weren't even there when I was elected, only 2½ years ago. This means that many individuals that bore witness to last week's fires may have never encountered such a situation in the past. While families like mine are accustomed to fires in the semi-bush area of the Hills, many new citizens and many people new to the area who live in these housing estates would never have considered the potential for a raging bushfire to have appeared on their doorstep.

So a lot can happen in 2½ years, a lot can change and a lot can be achieved. I was honoured to be elected the very first member for Burt in 2016, and I have been working to build a better Burt ever since. In fact, many of the projects we've achieved are ones that I've been working on since long before my time in parliament. With the support of the WA Labor government, we've secured federal funding to fix the Denny Avenue level crossing. This is a project that I've been working on since my days at the Armadale Redevelopment Authority nearly 20 years ago. After calling for it in mid-2015, we've secured funding to widen Armadale Road and build a new bridge over the freeway. Also, work is now underway to widen the freeway to make the commute from Burt to the Perth CBD and beyond faster and safer. We've also secured funding, alongside the state government, to extend the Thornlie rail line, with two new stations in Canning Vale and with the line to connect through to Cockburn Central on the Mandurah line. These projects amount to an injection of more than a billion dollars and almost 3,000 jobs for our community.

Growing up in Armadale, I've always had close ties to the Burt community, and so I'm proud to be able to support our community now as an MP and to continue to enhance our growing south-east corridor. As a former chair of Starick Services, I've been pleased to lobby successfully for the reinstatement of Safe at Home funding for victims of domestic violence. I have also promoted and participated in the great work of the Armadale Youth Intervention Partnership, which demonstrates how a targeted, collaborative and place-based approach with purposefully resourced backbone leadership can support better outcomes for young people with complex needs in our community. It makes sure that children who are at risk of committing crimes are identified prior to this taking place and helps them change their story.

I've also secured funding of more than $300,000 for community organisations, but there's so much work to do—so much that can't be achieved merely from opposition. For example, if elected, a Labor government would deliver over $33 million to the schools of Burt over the next three years and restore the over $2 million of funding cut from Armadale Hospital. The people of Burt need a change of government now, because only a Labor government will continue to change the story for the better for the people of Burt.