More than three-and-a-half years after fires devastated parts of the south-west on an unseasonally hot and windy St Patrick's Day, victims got their day in court.
For most of us, we will never truly understand the pain and emptiness of losing everything in a fire.
But Elingamite's Vicki Angus told the Warrnambool Magistrates Court this week of the anguish she and her family had suffered after a fire, started by clashing electrical conductors, destroyed their paradise and 19 other houses.
She said the fire had "torn the living soul out of us all".
"Words fail to describe the realisation that the only belongings you now have are those that you are wearing," she said.
"No legal identity, no family history, no evidence of shared experiences."
On that night, houses, cars, animals never stood a chance. It was sheer luck no one died.
"We are the unlucky ones," she said. "We are victims of a situation that could have been avoided if appropriate steps had been taken.
"If this fire was due to a natural occurrence, maybe it could have been easier to deal with."
A lump forms in your throat when you hear it, you want to pour your heart out to not just Ms Angus but the other victims. Then it's almost natural your emotion turns to anger that Powercor, which pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to safely maintain its assets which sparked the blaze, received a $130,000 fine when the offence carried a maximum penalty of $237,855.
It's unthinkable the state's power regulator Energy Safe Victoria could be pleased with such a penalty. It's unthinkable it took the fires and incredible courage from members of those impacted communities to force changes. Powercor has been forced to up its maintenance and only after unrelenting pressure the government reformed ESV's governance structure in a bid to "achieve the highest-standard energy safety outcomes for Victorians".
It beggars belief ESV, which originally laid six charges, could sustain only one. Victims of the Garvoc fire, which started when a rotten power pole inspected just months before, snapped, rightly feel let down that no charges regarding this could stack up.
ESV failed them, Powercor failed them and now the legal system has failed them too. The penalty does not fit the crime.
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