Bushfire Victim Delivers Devastating 'Gift' To Prime Minister
A woman whose home was destroyed in bushfires will deliver its ashes to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, telling him "your climate crisis burned my home".
Melinda Plesman's family home of 35 years was one of more than 600 lost in the devastating bushfires that burned across Australia in recent months. She built her house at Nymboida, on the NSW north coast near Grafton, with her own hands out of local wood, rock and materials.
It was lost on November 8, as relentless flames tore through the town.
On Monday, as her family contemplates their first Christmas away from the house they called home, Plesman went to Canberra to give Prime Minister Morrison a 'gift' -- of sorts.
She delivered the remains of her home to Parliament House, in an attempt to draw attention to climate change and its supercharging effects on natural disasters.
"This is climate change, and this is what it’s done to my family," Plesman said.
Plesman and partner Dean Kennedy are now living in a motel, having escaped the ravaging fires with just the clothes on their backs. The family had to abandon their beloved pets and lost decades of irreplaceable memories.
"My kids grew up here. It’s the centre of my world, full of memories, of my children growing up, one of my children was born here," Plesman said.
"This is our family home, it’s central to our family. We’ve had many wonderful Christmases here, and this is the first year we won’t have that."
Speaking to 10 daily, she said the last few weeks had been like "an altered reality", as her family tries to adjust to their new life without their beloved home. Plesman has tried to return to her day job, working in family and child protection services, but said it had been difficult while enduring "a heaviness, a sadness".
"When I left my home, I knew that I was leaving everything we’d acquired over years, it was so hard to walk out the front door knowing everything was about to go up in smoke," she said.
On Monday, she travelled to Parliament House in Canberra. Supported by Greenpeace Australia, with debris from her destroyed house -- "some burnt bits, some things we found in the fire" -- to show to politicians arriving for the final sitting week of the year. She will deliver the ashes with the message "your climate crisis burned my home".
"I wanted to get the attention of some politicians, especially Scott Morrison. He's the one who has the ability to bring some change. I'm hoping he will understand," Plesman said.
Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian were widely criticised for shutting down conversation about climate change's effect on the bushfires burning across much of the country in recent weeks. "Not today," Berejiklian told one reporter who asked about the link, while Morrison also declined to address such questions.
Another Nymboida resident who lost their home to fire, 18-year-old Shiann Broderick, addressed Morrison directly on Friday at a climate demonstration in Sydney.
"Our homes are burning and you're sending me your thoughts and prayers. Prime minister, your prayers and thoughts are not enough," she said.
Despite having most of her worldly possessions destroyed, Plesman said she had been motivated to travel to Canberra and talk about climate change so others would hopefully not go through the same hardship she now is.
"I'm angry. I can't believe we're living through this world where we're not allowed to talk about climate change. I'm really scared now, because I've got grandchildren."
Plesman said she has no doubt about the role a changing climate had on the bushfire emergency.
"Living in the northern rivers, you have a wet season, and it hasn't been the same for years now. The forest has been drying."
As for what she wants, Plesman said she just wants politicians to listen and co-operate.
"We need to pull together and accept the science. I want them to know if they do that, it'd be fantastic," she said.