Bushfire recovery in the Bega Valley Shire

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Last week I travelled to the Bega Valley Shire to prepare for Connecting Communities Australia Bushfire Recovery Program. I was astonished by the beauty and yet conversely the terrible destruction from the fires in January. Whole swathes of countryside have been destroyed with tree’s burned right up to their crown. What was really disturbing was the silence of the bush with little indication of surviving wildlife. The Border’s fire swept through the hills with such ferocity that little in its path could survive.

On the first day we met with the Bega Valley Shire Council to discuss our program and how best we could help the community. We discussed the loss of assets including community halls, sheds and toilets that were destroyed. Land holders that had lost stock, out buildings and fences during the fires. With mixed incomes many of these people have missed out on the government grants that have been made available.

We travelled to Cobargo to view the damage done to that town. The fire cut a path through the centre of town yet left buildings to the north and south. Blocks have been cleared however there is no sign of any rebuilding as yet. We then visited Murrah to inspect their community hall which avoided the fire however is in need of restoration work.

The following day we travelled with Liz Scott from Head Space who took us to number of small communities to the south of Eden that had had significant damage during the fires. Places like Kiah and Wolumla. At Wolumla we met the BlazeAid team and were hugely impressed by their work. There was a team of 30 travellers centred there doing fencing for the local farmers. It is Connecting Communities Australia’s hope that we can compliment the work of BlazeAid.

We plan to base a team of up to 30 skilled volunteers in this area for two weeks to assist with fencing, repairs to outbuildings, painting and the laying of AG piping. We will hold a community event at the end of the project to celebrate our time together.

While things have been very difficult for these communities I’m so impressed by their resilience and determination to recover and move forward. Our plan is to bring our volunteer team to the Bega Valley Shire in late September and early October.

Cloncurry District

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A very rewarding day in the Cloncurry district. We travelled to four farms where our volunteers have been working all week. While the jobs they do are important over and over again farmers say it’s the conversation, the companionship and friendships developed that have the most impact. A very important weapon in the battle for mental well being in the bush. As one farmer said to me, “In wouldn’t care if they sat on their backside all day as long as they talked to me”. 

Connecting Communities Australia and the RACQ Foundation always try to buy everything locally including flood, materials fuel and of course accommodation. With the graziers suffering so are towns like Cloncurry. 

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Cloncurry to Brisbane

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Over the last 3 days I’ve been driving back from Cloncurry to Brisbane. Visiting farmers and talking to Councils in Longreach, Barcaldine and Charleville planning for Connecting Communities Australia Program in 2020. I’ve reflected on the amazing resilient farmers I’ve met and worked with and the communities with businesses closing and running out of water. The nation needs to work as one to stand with these people find solutions and look to the future. If you would like to support CCA’s drought resilience program please go to https://lnkd.in/gExjJum There are great opportunities for business and individuals to support farmers and communities in the bush.

Visit to Western NSW to Connect with Communities

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I’ve just completed a truly enlightening trip to Western NSW. A four hour delay out of Sydney airport was a forerunner to weather conditions across Western NSW as strong winds reduced Sydney Airport’s capacity to one runway.  I was travelling to Dubbo to attend the the Western Support Network Meeting. The group consists of government and non-government rural support agencies discussing issues and ongoing programs assisting communities and farmers in Western NSW through the drought. It was a great opportunity to share Connecting Community Australia’s programs to support rural and remote communities.

In the afternoon I travelled with James Cleaver from the DPI out through Nyngan towards Girilambone. Strong westerly winds were driving a dust storm across the region. These conditions were  really concerning forerunner to summer. That night we stayed with a farming family discussing the drought and the measures farmers are taking to manage the situation. Like everyone they have real concerns if there aren’t any summer rains.

Today was really inspiring as we visited the Gilargambone and Marra Public Schools. Marra holds the honour of being the most isolated school in NSW. I shared with them CCA’s volunteer program to assist these schools. It includes improved facilities, painting, gardening and the building of a bike pump track for the kids. The program ends with an event involving the whole community.

The staff at these schools are truly inspirational and innovative in providing excellent learning environments for their children. CCA is now seeking funding to run these programs.

Julia Creek Drought and Flood Relief Project

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For six years of drought in North West Queensland, farmers struggled to keep their livestock alive, worked to make ends meet and prayed for rain. Then it flooded.

The scale of devastation in North West Queensland has been described as an “inland tsunami”. It’s estimated that there are approximately 1.5 million cattle in the region, it’s estimated 500,000 perished in the unprecedent flood.

Connecting Communities Australia (CCA) partnered with RACQ to send 20 volunteers to Julia Creek to work on 12 properties for a week. This team did the following: 

  • Repair machinery such as four wheel drives, quads and motorbikes that enable community organisations to operate
  • Assist with fencing, painting, gardening and cleaning of club/recreational facilities 
  • Provide financial planning advice and assistance  

The project provided much needed practical, on the ground support and assistance to graziers as they begin rebuilding and look to the future. 

Having worked together on two other projects this year CCA and the RACQ Foundation are well placed to  assist, including tangible operational support, as well as emotional support to flood affected communities.   

The resilience of rural communities in the face of a crippling drought

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Across the course of a week we travelled a 1000kms through Mudgee, Lightning Ridge, Goodooga and Coonabarabran. It was an opportunity to visit farms and Aboriginal communities. The overwhelming feeling is a group of highly skilled and resourceful people battling against all the odds to survive. On the two properties we visited near Lightning Ridge the cattle and sheep were being kept alive on a combination of cottonseed and hay from Victoria. There is no ground water left in the dams with bore water keeping the animals alive. For those farmers who grow crops its now been two seasons since the last successful harvest. The drought stretches to the NSW coast with towns like Coonabarabran running out of water and Dunedoo and Coolah having lived through the Sir Ivan fires now facing severe drought. What most impressed me was the resilience of farmers, how most of them had prepared for drought and how they are managing the current situation. What they do need is relief from all levels of government including rates, freight costs and bank charges. I’m looking for businesses wanting to help by providing volunteers through CSR programs to help these communities. Many of the farms have excellent accommodation in shearer’s quarters for leadership retreats or team building exercises. There is also a great opportunity to help the children of Goodooga by providing much needed resources for the community.