BlazeAid - Restoring farm fencing at Moruya, NSW
Wed 29 Jul 2020
John Nayler from Deja vu Magazine speaks with Mary Howarth from BlazeAid in Moruya NSW.
BlazeAid started back in 2009 with Kevin and Rhonda Butler, who were farmers, became victims of the Black Saturday fires. The Black Saturday fires were a series of bushfires that either ignited or were already burning across Victoria in February 2009, and are among Australia's all-time worst bushfire disasters. 173 people were killed, 120 in the Kinglake area alone. Another 414 people were injured. More than 450,000 hectares had burned and 3500 buildings including more than 2000 houses destroyed. The RSPCA estimated that up to one million wild and domesticated animals died in the disaster.
BlazeAid means "born out of the ashes" and the aim is to get the farmers back on their feet after enduring the devastation of bush fires. Rhonda decided to put an ad in the paper for volunteers to help rebuild over 5 kilometers of their fencing after the fires. It was an impossible and daunting task for them to tackle on their own. The response was overwhelming and people came from all around Australia and Overseas to assist in their plight. It took 10 months to rebuild the fences.
11 years on BlazeAid is still helping farmers in Victoria, NSW and South Australia to get back on their feet and to be productive again. BlazeAid is also assisting after disasters such as droughts, floods and cyclones. There was a team that volunteered in Airlie Beach for 3 months after Cyclone Debbie hit in 2017, under pretty rough conditions.
Mary says, "We work with and support the local communities when we come into towns to set up camps, as we like to inject the money that we do have into the local economy". "Currently, there are 23 camps set up and down the coast from NSW to Victoria and still some in South Australia". "Here at the moment in Moyura, we have 26 volunteers working on properties including some locals, backpackers on holidays VISAS plus the older generation as well". "It is amazing how everyone comes together to assist". "The days are long and one can be working in the paddocks or the kitchen with the backpackers doing their 88 days of dedicated work." "It is gratifying knowing that you are giving back".
Mary further explains that it is an experience and an eye-opener, particularly for the younger generation who come from all walks of life. They talk to the farmers and are there to witness the devastation first hand of completely burnt out paddocks. When the volunteers do come some of them say, "I don't know how to build fences?" There are plenty of things to do with the various aspects of re-building the fences. Rolling up the burnt wire, pulling the new wire through, putting C clips on netting and ring locks etc. It is all about teamwork!
BlazeAid needs more volunteers as there is so much work to be undertaken. The camp at Moyura has been operating since early February 2020. Overall, 235 properties have registered for help. It is a very long process to get to so many people in need. The more volunteers that are working the more properties BlazeAid can help.
"COVID-19 has certainly not helped and we apply social distancing when and where we can". "We work 5 days a week and then hang around the camp so we don't go far". "Accommodation and food are supplied, so the volunteers are looked after," says Mary.
Mary further explains, "BlazeAid is a Non for Profit organisation, none of us are paid, we do the work for the love of it". "We rely on donations". "Our aim is to not put contractors out of a job". "As you can appreciate some of these farmers have lost everything including their homes". "The cost of rebuilding fences and replacing stock is an expensive exercise for farmers, who just don't have that extra money available".
There are many people currently out of work and receiving financial Government assistance. Surely there has to be a way to involve some of these people in such a worthwhile exercise. The benefits for both parties would be outweighed by any other agendas. Australians are known for their generosity in supporting their fellow mates in their time of need. This is one of those times. Please donate financially or donate your time!
For more information and to register your interest to volunteer at BlazeAid go to the website:
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