11 September 2019

BEGA VALLEY BUSHFIRE PODCAST - Disaster recovery takes time

| Ian Campbell
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Anne Leadbeater. Photo: Anne Leadbeater Twitter.

Anne Leadbeater. Photo: Anne Leadbeater Twitter.

It’s easy to think those impacted by bushfire in the Bega Valley during 2018 should ‘be over it by now’ the reality is very different.

Local support services speak of people still in need, still in emotional distress, still foggy and unable to cope with too much more.

In episode two of this special three-part podcast series, we hear from Anne Leadbeater who was the recovery coordinator for Kinglake following the 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria.

She is ten years down the track and still feeling the influence and impact of her community’s experience.

“I am not sure you ever get back to your full capacity. What that tells us is the profound effect disaster has on people,” Anne says.

“Communities evolve through this experience, I am not sure that they ever end up just like they were, I think they end up just like they should be.”

Anne fears that with the recent 12 month anniversary of the Reedy Swamp, Vimy Ridge, and Tathra Bushfire, many people might have expected that to be the end of their pain, stress, and grief.

“It’s a long process, we put a lot of emphasis on that first 12 months, what we are not so good at is knowing that the second 12 months is pretty tough as well,” she says.

“The challenges continue beyond that anniversary and that’s where people will be at now, there is a lot that needs to be resolved.”

It’s frank heartfelt advice that is also relevant for the Bemboka, Numbugga, and Brogo communities as the first anniversary of the Yankees Gap Fire approaches. With that occasion in mind, Bega Valley Shire Council’s Recovery Support Service and Red Cross are keen to gauge people’s interest in a commemorative event or events to mark the milestone.

Given that the Yankees Gap Fire had two runs – August 15 and September 15 a date in the middle is being considered as an ‘anniversary’. Activities lead by the community have been shown to bring the most positive results. Do you have any thoughts or opinions? When should it be held? What might it look like? Who should be involved and lead any event?

Contact the Recovery Support Service on 6499 2475 or email – [email protected] or Linda Mayo from Red Cross on 0438 901 481 or email – [email protected] to offer your thoughts.

Anne Leadbeater feels such occasions are important, but her real-world way also suggests expectations around recovery can compound the issues people might be wrestling with, “in most cases people have experienced something that they have never experienced before.”

“You do come out the other side of this but I think it is sometimes made more difficult if we impose expectations on people about how they should move through and experience this event.”

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There is much to digest in this podcast, perhaps too much to do on your own, people and services are still available to help you with that:

  • Bushfire Recovery Psychological Support Service runs until March 2020, providing free face to face counseling support. Find a free counselor near you HERE.
  • The Chaplaincy Network is also still at work through the Anglican and Uniting Church of Tathra and Bega. Offering pastoral care to individuals, couples and families; caring for people as they seek to rebuild their lives and homes. There is also a support group that meet at ‘Blend @ Tathra’ on Tuesdays at 10 am, lead by Sherryn Burrop. Contact details: Rev. Capt. Stuart Haynes on phone – 0421 170 071 or 64925 555 or email – [email protected]
  • Bega Valley Shire Council’s Recovery Support Service, led by Anne, June and Caralyn, is available Monday to Friday via Unit 6 at Tathra Beach House Apartments. Contact details: Recovery Hotline – 6499 2475, or email [email protected]
  • Red Cross Emergency Service team is always available to provide psychological first aid at events. They also carry stock of printed resources which might be useful reading as you, your family and community continues this journey. Contact details: Linda Mayo, Recovery Officer on phone – 0438 901 481 or email – [email protected] until 30 July and then, Sandra Arnold, Response and Recovery Coordinator on phone – 0466 502 211 or email – [email protected]

Date for the diary…

Community Driven Recovery with Peter Kenyon, July 18 and 19, Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre.

This two-day workshop will equip participants with the skills, information, tools and motivation to build capacity and resilience in their local communities. Open to all community members across the Bega Valley Shire, participation is free.

Contact the Recovery Support Service for more info or to register phone – 0428 610 127 or email – [email protected]

This special podcast series is a collaboration between The Australian Red Cross, South East NSW Primary Health Network and About Regional. In episode three, a focus on assisting children and young people affected by a disaster over the longer term.

Missed episode one? Catch up HERE.

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