The upcoming February issue of Liquid Life and Leisure magazine has a story with very personal significance to me. The story is about supporting communities in their recovery from the devastating bushfires that hit many areas in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia over the summer of 2019 / 2020.
I was glad to be asked to write a piece on this subject, to add to the support that is already out there and in particular to help one of the areas impacted in South Australia, the Adelaide Hills. In mid-2019 I moved from the town of Woodside in the Adelaide Hills, a place where I had lived for more than 30 years. It was where my children were born, attended school, and joined sports clubs. As a family we were very entrenched in the town, as anyone who has ever lived in a rural community knows. It was a big decision to make the move but the timing felt right and we now live in another lovely small community close to the coast, but obviously keep in close touch with many hills friends still.
Little did we know that a devastating bushfire would strike the area just before Christmas and have such a huge impact on our town and others nearby. The fire began in the town of Cudlee Creek and proceeded to move to the towns of Lobethal and Woodside amongst others. In the time we lived there I can remember two occasions where the threat of bushfires came close but never did we expect one to actually hit. The town isn’t one that is heavily surrounded by scrub but mostly farmland and vineyards, therefore the threat seemed less than other areas. That’s not to say that people were complacent, summer means bushfires and the Adelaide Hills are no stranger to them.
Even though we no longer lived there, we were glued to the radio and news reports on the day the fire threatened. We were receiving photos and text updates from friends living there until they either made the hard decision to leave, or stay and defend their properties. In the aftermath there were many texts flying around to find out how everyone and their properties faired. Thankfully everyone we knew were safe and immediate friends’ houses had been saved thanks to the tireless work of CFS volunteers and others. Others that we knew of (it’s a small town and most people are known) weren’t so lucky and houses, sheds, vehicles, stock and vineyards were damaged or obliterated.
Since then, stories have emerged of where people were, what they saw and did in the hours and days of the bushfire and afterwards. Of course people are grateful that they still have their families and houses but there is damage, scars. Gardens completely destroyed, scorched earth, the ash and charred smell pervades the land and the psychological impact it has had on people is enormous.
To add to that, everyone is expected to go about their daily lives, go to work, take care of their families and pets – ordinary things. But it’s not the same. To visit the town afterwards was shocking and heart wrenching just knowing how much time and effort it will take to recover, and that’s just the impact on the environment.
There will be hundreds of stories like this around Australia and they need to be told and more importantly these communities, these people, need to be supported in their recovery. It will do a power of good to bring some joy and business to the affected areas by simply going there! Visit the areas affected, buy food while you’re there, top up your fuel tank, visit the shops, stay in accommodation, and spread a bit of money around and talk to the people of the town to let them know you have come especially to support them. There are untouched areas that can be enjoyed but it’s also a sobering thing to see the destruction and learn from the event. It gives you such an appreciation for the work of the CFS in what they did save.
In the article I mention just some of the places where donations can be made, if you can’t visit the affected areas. You can also help by buying products online or in shops from the businesses in the bushfire affected areas. In South Australia look for products (including wines) from the Adelaide Hills or anything from Kangaroo Island. My payment for the story in Liquid Life and Leisure, will be doing exactly that. You can subscribe to receive this online magazine for free every month, just visit their website or download the App.
Support Bushfire Recovery!