Ms JENNY AITCHISON (Maitland) (18:55:42): It is greatly heartening that since our devastating bushfire season the Rural Fire Service has had 35,000 inquiries from people who want to join their local brigade. This is more than double the number of inquiries the RFS received in the previous year.

The interest in and support for our fireys during these terrible times provides an immense boost for the brigades and the morale of crews as they recover from the worst fire season on record. To date the RFS has received 8,400 completed applications.

I thank each and every individual who has made an application and is willing to be part of their local brigade and make a difference. I also thank the many community members who donated to them, which has obviously sparked that interest and that feeling of being appreciated in this role. Without these selfless volunteers the destruction, loss and death would have been immeasurably greater. In a time of uncertainty it is grassroots organisations that will keep up morale and community spirit.

I wish everyone who is embarking on their RFS journey the best of luck and I look forward to meeting and hearing the new members in my local brigades.