Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Indonesian experts arrive to help identify Victorian bush fire victims


I see from yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald that Indonesian body identification experts have arrived to assist local police with the large workload from the bushfires.

This photo by Ken Irwin shows the team arriving at Melbourne airport.

The initial contingent of six officers from the Indonesian police victim identification unit is likely to stay for at least six months, and will be followed by as many as 14 more officers.

Five of the officers worked on the crime scene after the Bali attacks of 2002 and 2003, and also on the team that identified bodies in the wake of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that killed more than 150,000 people in Indonesia.

While it's sad to think that the Indonesian expertise was developed out of tragedy, it's also nice from an Australian perspective to have the support. I hope that this will be another small step in building bridges between the two countries.

Still on the fires, since I wrote Saturday morning musings - issues raised by the Victorian fires, radio reports have pointed to some conflict between official relief efforts and the very quick, early, volunteer response.

This is a difficult area.

Official responses are bound by rules, as well as the practical difficulties involved in trying to cope with a disaster across such a wide area. This means that volunteer responses can be quicker in meeting immediate needs. However, this can create tension between the two.

To my mind, Australian's volunteer can do spirit is the first line of defence in dealing with many community problems. However, Australians also have a tendency when Governments step in to say well, okay, it's your problem now. They withdraw, so that official space replaces the private, volunteer, space.

For a number of reasons, Australian Governments are not especially good at dealing with local variation. Common sense gets a bit lost in the desire for uniform approaches.

I suspect that it's time that we had something of a national conversation about ways of building community spirit and of reconciling the conflicts that can arise.


Grace said...

This tragedy about the bush fire in Australia is really heart-breaking. I didn't know there are Indonesians there, too.
Thanks for posting this. This gave me awareness.

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic. I am truly impressed, just as you are that from adversity, some good has come.

In our own recent problems, the FBI, Scotland Yard, the NYPD etc have all contributed to the investigations which really helped in our problems with Pakistan's terror outfits.

Such international cooperation is really very encouraging.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi, both, and thanks. Sorry for the delay in responding. International cooperation in areas like this is indeed encouraging. And i liked the Indonesian contribution as neighbours.