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Canberra stronger decade after fires, says Deek

Date

Megan Doherty

Former champion marathon runner Robert de Castella lost his Chapman home in the 2003 firestorm.

Former champion marathon runner Robert de Castella lost his Chapman home in the 2003 firestorm. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Canberra legend Robert De Castella, who lost his Chapman home in the 2003 firestorm, believes the national capital is a stronger city 10 years after the disaster.

"Any hardship that you go through really tests you and, hopefully, you rise to meet the challenge. And when you get through it, or you make progress, you look back with a sense of self-respect," he said.

The Canberra Bushfire Commemoration service at the Bushfire Memorial.
 Brooke Winslade (17) of Duffy. Click for more photos

Special memorial of the tenth anniversary of the Canberra fires

Special memorial of the tenth anniversary of the Canberra fires. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"I think from an individual perspective, but also a community perspective, it's time for Canberra to reflect on how it managed. Obviously people made mistakes but I think, overall, a lot of really great things have come out of it."

The former world champion marathon runner attended the commemoration service at the ACT Bushfire Memorial with his wife Theresa and their seven-year-old daughter Sophia and his 17-year-old son Lachlan, from his first marriage. Sophia was, in some way, a lovely consequence of the fires.

"I don't think we would have made the effort to have another child if it wasn't for the fires and the realisation that family is so important," he said.

Mr de Castella, who was a member of the Bushfire Recovery Taskforce and who now lives in O'Malley, said he believed Canberrans now had a "more mature" perspective of the fires a decade and the city was "much better community".

"I think we're stronger and so much more prepared for these kinds of tragedies," he said.

"The reality is life is full of all sorts of tragedies and we have to be vigilant and be prepared."

Mr de Castella said a commemoration ceremony had been a good way to recognise the milestone.

"A day like today is important because it gives you the authority to reflect and go through the process of reviewing and analysing and understanding a little bit better," he said.

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The Canberra Bushfire Commemoration service at the Bushfire Memorial. Bronte Forrester (17), who lost her home in the 2003 fires leaves a flower in the pool at the bushfire memorial. Special memorial of the tenth anniversary of the Canberra fires

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