John & Sue Anderson came to the club on Tuesday 3rd September, at the invitation of Chairman Russell Ford, who had initiated and managed our contribution as catering volunteers to providing an evening meal to those in the field.
John and Sue offered to coordinate the ‘Bunyip BlazeAid Volunteer Camp’ for a brief period, when it started on 12th March, but remained in that role for the five months it operated (till 16th August).
Before action started the trailers full of equipment started to arrive and then came the volunteers from around Victoria and the nation – including groups from and sponsored by an agribusiness in WA, car club from interstate, grey nomads from Qld and school group from Geelong.
In total, more than 600 volunteers worked on farms, in administration and catering. They cleared up over 300 kms of damaged fencing and many outbuildings and structures, rebuilt 150 kms of fencing, served breakfasts, afternoon teas and dinners to volunteers every day, seven days a week that the camp operated and contributed what is calculated to be at least $2million in ‘value’. And of the meals? John reported that he heard nothing but compliments from the recipients.
And there were also some events run for volunteers, farmers and community to support recovery and give a break e.g. Opera in the Shed
BlazeAid received no government support and all equipment, food, cash and services were donated from a variety of sources, including the Post & Wire program, which provided direct cash grants of $1,000 to farmers in need.
Sue added that there were lots of behind-the-scenes jobs that people took on. For example, apart from lots of administration, there were toilets and showers to be cleaned out every day, menus to be developed and food sourced, the fourteen volunteer groups who provided dinner to be organised and OH&S to be overseen and enforced…particularly with the old hands who “ …never needed to bother with that sort of stuff…”.
There is still lots to be done and recovery, particularly emotional recovery, is an ongoing effort. Cardinia Shire Council is managing a ‘Recovery Centre’ in Tonimbuk Hall and a ‘Community Recovery Committee’ has been established.
John and Sue thanked Drouin Rotary for their support as volunteers and as donors of cash. Hopefully we will not see this again for some time…but forecasts unfortunately predict otherwise.