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The Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 devastated homes, outbuildings, infrastructure and wildlife in the Bega Valley Shire communities. Ten months on, many of the local residents were still picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild their lives. In October 2020, Connecting Communities Australia headed to the area for a two-week bushfire relief program. A team of around 45 volunteers (mostly current and ex-Qantas staff members), provided support to the local communities of Wonboyn, Towamba and Kiah.

The crew assisted with building a community outdoor space including a BBQ area, providing shade for the children’s playground, removing fencing to protect local wildlife and repairing and rebuilding nearly a dozen properties in the area. The people in these communities had been greatly affected by bushfires with several losing their homes.

This community really suffered in the bushfires, they had nothing and to be able to come here and rebuild these spaces for the community has given us a real sense of achievement and we can see the tangible difference having areas like this will mean to this community as it continues to rebuild.

Amidst the pandemic in 2020, we were relieved that we were able to bring our program to the community and give physical help to these people who have coped with losing nearly everything. They are strong and resilient and we hope we were able to lift their spirits.”

Glenn PriceFounder CCA

IDENTIFY

In conjunction with government organisations, local council and community groups, CCA identified three communities in the Bega Valley that had received only limited support since the bushfire: Wonboyn, Kiah and Towamba. In Wonboyn fencing needed replacing, replanting of native bushes and grasses, building a retaining wall and installation of irrigation pipes. In Kiah water pipes needed to be laid to provide access to river water, tree planting along the river to reduce erosion and repairs to outbuildings and fencing. Finally, in Towamba the community need a meeting space created for families in the district.

SOURCE

CCA provided volunteers with appropriate skillsets including builders, engineers, carpenters, painters and general volunteers to provide labour for the projects. Funding was sourced through Vinnies, CCA and many in-kind donations from the local community.

DELIVER

Following two site visits, CCA delivered a 14-day program which included the installation of a barbecue, seating, shelter, shade-sail for the children’s play equipment and the installation of basketball hoops in Towamba. Riverbank tree plantings, the laying of water pipes and repairs to fencing in Kiah, and in Wonboyn, fencing repairs, retaining walls and tree plantings, were all completed. Community events were held in Wonboyn and Towamba.

MEASURE

Follow-ups included quantitative and qualitative surveys with those impacted in Wonboyn, Towamba and Kiah. These surveys also identified the number of community members impacted, tasks completed and projects delivered.

Womboyn residents, Oxana and Paul Johnson lost their home in the bushfires and were incredibly grateful for the support from CCA.

““The first six months there is a lot happening and a lot of people and organisations are helping and as things get fixed and done, people drop off, organisations drop off and you’re left with, you’ve got more time to think,” Oxana said.

Speaking to volunteers at the conclusion of the project, Paul said, “At the time there was so much adrenaline kicking in, in fact we felt we could cope with anything. In fact our journey has been in PST and mental terms getting more and more difficult as the time has gone on. You guys turning up now has just been an amazing healing and we just can’t thank you enough.””