Tomorrow the Quakers Hill Nursing Home, destroyed by a November 2011 fire in which 11 residents were killed, will be re-opened.
Michelle Rowland is the local MP and she spoke in the NSW Parliament on Monday 24 Feberuary about the fire and its aftermath, including the new rule making sprinklers compulsory in aged care facilities.
Michelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications):
I rise to update the House on the redevelopment of the Quakers Hill Nursing Home, located in my electorate, which, as members would remember, burnt down in November 2011, tragically taking the lives of 11 innocent people. Victims died in the fire and others died afterwards from complications related to the fire.
Michelle Rowland MP.
This was a truly horrifying event for a close-knit community. These were innocent victims – elderly people who had survived wars, the Depression, disease and the passage of time itself – whose lives were ripped away by an event none of them deserved or could have foreseen.
Over the last two and a half years our community has collectively grieved and come together to do whatever we could to help those affected. I would like to mention the outstanding work of Minister Geoff Bates of the Quakers Hill Anglican Church, which acted as both a triage zone and a safe place of comfort for the families of those involved at the time of the tragedy and over the last two years. There are many people in our community who did exceptional work in this area, but I do want to specifically mention Reverend Bates — he was a true shepherd for all our community.
The fatal fire prompted an overhaul of the rules surrounding fire safety in residential nursing homes. The Quakers Hill facility had fire extinguishers and fire doors, but it did not have sprinklers in place. It is now compulsory for nursing homes in New South Wales to have sprinklers and if we can take anything positive from this tragic event, it is that this will not happen in future.
Whilst I am mentioning these lessons learned, I want to make it clear that the Quakers Hill facility had done everything it could under the rules appropriate to them and this is not mentioned to attribute fault or blame to anyone, because indeed no-one could have foreseen that this was going to be the work of an arsonist, a perpetrator, who was later convicted — a perpetrator who was, in fact, one of the nurses from the facility.
This Friday we reach a significant moment in the history of Quakers Hill Nursing Home: the official reopening of that facility, which will be done by Premier O’Farrell. I am also pleased that [Barbara Perry] the Shadow Minister for Ageing, the member for Blair, will also be present. The new centre is three times the size of the previous home and will provide 79 single and 24 double rooms, with a dedicated wing for 16 residents living with dementia.
But most importantly, the new home will feature a memorial garden which was designed as a reminder of the impact the Quakers Hill fire had on individuals, families and the community at large. While the physical infrastructure has been mended, the psychological scars will always be raw.
My thoughts and prayers and, I am sure, those of other members, will be with the community on what will be an emotional day, especially for relatives and friends of the deceased. May they all rest in peace.