19 April 2021

More hands needed as BlazeAid reopens in Moruya: 'There's still work to be done'

| Albert McKnight
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Jacqui and John Sterling

Jacqui and John Sterling from Victoria are volunteering to repair damaged and destroyed fences in the Eurobodalla for BlazeAid, including at this Cadgee farm. Photo: Supplied.

BlazeAid volunteers are working tirelessly to help those in the Eurobodalla Shire affected by the devastating 2019-2020 bushfires, but they can’t do it alone.

More helping hands are needed to assist in rebuilding fences that were damaged or destroyed in the fires.

Last year BlazeAid spent 10 months in the shire rebuilding 151km of fencing on 263 properties – a value to the community of more than $1million and in March the BlazeAid camp was re-established at the Moruya Showground.

“The reason we reopened is because there’s still work to be done,” acting coordinator for Moruya BlazeAid Norm Cheale said.

Mr Cheale said the fire-affected residents of the Eurobodalla were all recovering differently more than a year on from the bushfires.

READ ALSO $3.6 million in funds to fuel region’s bushfire recovery

“Part of the role of a volunteer is just being prepared to listen to people, to hear them tell their story,” he said.

Some who lost their homes were still living in caravans. A couple said they did not have one tree left on their property as the fires had destroyed everything.

“That’s pretty heart-breaking stuff,” Mr Cheale said.

He said BlazeAid expected to remain in Moruya for at least a couple of months with about 70 more properties to assist, although he said the length of fences to repair varied from a few hundred metres to several kilometres.

The main work for BlazeAid volunteers is fencing but some people help around the camp and helpers can be locals or visitors.

Volunteers can help out for one day or for as long as they like. Fencing experience is ideal, but there is on-the-job training for those who want to learn.

Victorians John and Jacqui Sterling are two volunteers based at the Moruya Showground donating a month of their time to the cause.

Mr Sterling said 15 months on from the fires many property owners were faced with a mammoth task.

“It’s such a big job that is so daunting – many just don’t know where to start,” he said.

“It’s amazing that by giving just a few hours, or a day, or a couple of days, we’re able to give people the impetus to keep going.”

The Sterlings are full-time travellers and the Moruya camp is the third time they have volunteered with BlazeAid.

READ ALSO: Slow progress on the road to recovery for fire-affected Bega Valley residents

They prefer to spend time giving back to the community in their retirement – and BlazeAid is “as good an organisation as any”.

“I love the work – it can be physical at times, but you’re generally working in a team of two, sometimes five or six – so there’s a camaraderie,” Mr Sterling said.

“We chat about life experiences and it’s a great team environment.”

Mr Cheale agreed that there was a strong camaraderie in the camp and said volunteers got the satisfaction of helping other people.

“A lot of long-term friendships are established between volunteers as well as between the volunteers and property owners,” he said.

“Some people come back year after year and revisit the properties they helped.”

To volunteer with BlazeAid call the Moruya coordinator on 0477 268 456 or email [email protected].

Those interested in volunteering or supporting BlazeAid can also attend a welcome barbecue at the Moruya Showground on 27 April from 3-6pm.

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