I would struggle to find anyone in Australia who doesn’t have a connection with somewhere that is literally under fire right now. Right now, my heart is with Tumbarumba, New South Wales. When my family visited regularly, my great-grandparents lived in the heart of town, and my grandparents had 40 acres a few minutes drive out of town.
Tumbarumba is a small town nestled in a valley. The main street is lined with shops and the local supermarket supports many of the events in the town. It has been a timber town, with the forestry (where my grandfather worked) one of the larger employers and more recently focussed on tourism and wineries. The local newspaper had a small office in the main street – I believe the owner/editor at the time was a man named George Martin.
Sound familiar? The parallels are probably why Canungra so easily felt like home to me.
When I woke on New Year’s Day, there was a ‘too late to leave’ fire warning for Tumbarumba. Although I don’t know anyone there these days, I was in tears, fearing for what might happen. Today, I woke to the news that the town is being evacuated due to increased fire risks for tomorrow. More tears. My heart is heavy.
After the Canungra/Beechmont fires in September, something happened. As you probably know, my home was not under threat – at no time did I feel I was personally in danger, but my friends and community were under threat constantly for two weeks. I didn’t sleep much, and often I cried myself to sleep. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. At least I was safe, many more weren’t.
Afterwards, people I didn’t know then but consider friends now contacted me when they felt no one else would listen. Most of them were saying ‘we have been abandoned’.
In some cases all I could do was listen. In some cases I could link them with organisations that provided help. All I wanted was for people to feel they were not alone. It seemed very little and there didn’t seem much else I could do.
What kept our towns going was the community support – the messages of support that came from across the world (literally), the handwritten notes from school children, the emails, facebook posts, the stockfeed donations, the food packages. We are fortunate enough to be an easy drive from the Gold Coast or Brisbane which meant getting donations here was logistically much easier than in some of the towns affected now.
That continued community support has kept us going in the ensuing months since those fires, and enabled the people of our towns to help others. People who have booked holidays, visited the town for the day and said “we’ve come here to support you” and one beautiful community from Bethania who have told me “we want to adopt Canungra”.
People around Australia have given so much and lost so much. I know that Australia will support the communities currently affected and any others that end up in the line of fire. I also know for Canungra and Beechmont, the best help was coordinated by local people, local charities and community organisations. In towns that have been decimated by fire this may not be possible, but for those that are able to, tell us what you need. Tell us which funds, what equipment or donations you need and where to send it. Use social media and tell us where we can help.
Right now I think people watching the bushfires still raging across the nation feel helpless and frustrated, but we are here. Everyone needs someone who has their back – Australia has your back.
And that knowledge, at least gives me hope. Tell us what you need. We will find a way.