Blaze Aid have come, and gone. Without them we would have been shot ducks. They are amazing. They repaired kilometres and kilometres of damaged fences, in places it would have been almost impossible to get contractors to go. They have replaced many kilometres of destroyed fence. There is still some things left to do, clean up old wire, hang the gates, some fences still to do – but it is now do-able for us, the really big jobs are done.
Here is the speech Justin wrote for Blaze Aid for the thank you dinner:
One of the main reasons we first became involved in our farm, Baroonga, was because the fences were good. Well, the fire this year changed all that. 45 km of fencing were damaged or destroyed. And, no fences, no farm. It’s not just that you can’t stop your stock from wandering off. But you can’t muster them because nowhere will hold them. You can’t carry out basic animal husbandry, can’t keep them separated or treat them; it’s even difficult to sell them.
Into this valley of destruction rode BlazeAid. When I first heard there’s a volunteer organisation that goes around the countryside fixing up farmers’ fences after bushfires, I thought “You gotta be kidding. This kinda stuff doesn’t happen to us. People so good don’t exist.”
Well, I will tell you, people so good do exist, and I’m proud to have known them as volunteers and friends.
The fires were still burning on Baroonga when BlazeAid first came. Since that time, 91 volunteers have come onto Baroonga, fixing up our fences, and fixing up our lives!
The first day volunteers arrived, I went to greet them. I said thank you thank you, gush gush, we’re so grateful to have you thanks for coming. They said “No, it’s we should be thanking you”! I didn’t see that one coming. That was completely unexpected, and very humbling.
It was always inspiring to learn how people had come to volunteer. Some were local people who had given up their weekends to help. Others have travelled long distances to help. One volunteer flew from Darwin to join the Nimmitabel camp. Quite a few were travelling, heard about it on the radio, and changed their course to come and volunteer for a couple of weeks to help people they didn’t know yet.
It’s the moral support as well. It’s not just that they’re fixing your fences, it’s that there’s no way in the world you could it yourself. They are there with you in your troubles, taking on the load themselves, and it lifts your spirits to have this kind of company!
You couldn’t do it yourself, not just because the farm would be out of production for all that time, but how could you do it? The efficiency of one person wouldn’t be one-fifth of the efficiency of a team of five. It would be one-tenth, because you’d spend all your time running up and down the line. It would be an impossible task. You’d have to sell the property and any buyer would be faced with the same enormity one way or the other. Without BlazeAid, you’d just go out backwards, badly and all you’ve worked for would be lost.
Of course people have their own motivations for volunteering. I think it’s not just the positive feeling that comes from helping people on the land, and doing something constructive. There’s also a great fellowship in BlazeAid. And there’s the picnicking!
There is a beautiful wisdom and humility that comes with seniority. For example, one guy told me he had been a professional concreter for 45 years – everything from skyscrapers to driveways. So he was a bit put out when a guy who’d been an office manager started telling him he was cementing in a strainer post wrong, and how to do it right. But he copped it sweet! He didn’t say a word. He just had the humility of wisdom, and got on with the job. And we saw so many examples of that, people putting their ego in their pocket, not making a fuss, and just getting on with it, which we appreciate, and admire.
The Service clubs deserve a special thanks for doing such a marvellous job of catering to such a large and long camp. What an ethic of service. And we know that the sacrifice they have made goes right back through layers and layers of the community not visible at the front line. This ranges from the people who put themselves out in so many ways, donated fencing materials, gravel and cement mix, the use of vehicles, and time and money and fodder and effort, for all which we are so grateful.
Special thanks to Paul and Val for taking on the huge task of organising this camp and overcoming so many challenges with such efficiency and good spirits.
Last but not least I’d like to thank Deal Lynch because his initiative and leadership invited BlazeAid here when we needed it most, and diverted this great river of goodwill, competence and fruitfulness into this shire, of which Dean has just shown why he is our mayor.
Look in the end, we are so very thankful in so many ways, we are caught short of words to express our gratitude. I’m sure I speak for all the farmers when I say from the bottom of my heart, you make us proud to be Aussies, and thank you; thank you; thank you!