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.