Today marks one year since the Whakaari/White Island Volcano Disaster, and we join our New Zealand friends to remember those who died in the eruption, those who experienced severe and long-term injuries, and the families and loved ones touched by this tragedy.
The eruption took the lives of 22 people, including 17 Australians, and seriously injured a further 25 people, including 11 Australians.
Australia and New Zealand share the strongest of partnerships, in good times and bad.
I would like to thank the Ngāti Awa, the local Maori community, for hosting a remembrance event in Whakatāne. Together with many others in Australia and New Zealand, my colleagues and I across the Australian Government honour the memory of those who were lost in the disaster, and reflect on the resilience of those who survived and of their families.
Australia remains deeply grateful for New Zealand’s assistance to Australians affected by this disaster. In the days after the eruption, I travelled to New Zealand to meet the families of Australian victims, and hear first-hand about the support provided by New Zealand health-care professionals.
I expressed my sincere gratitude to the hard-working medical personnel at Hutt Hospital in Wellington and Middlemore Hospital in Auckland. I would also like to acknowledge the Australian police and Defence Force members, and staff from specialist burns centres at Concord Hospital, Royal North Shore Hospital and the Alfred Hospital, for their work and professionalism following the eruption.
I was immensely proud of the interoperability that I saw between the New Zealand and Australian responders. It is a day our two countries will never forget.