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Sharpening the focus on bushfire recovery in Bega

Meg Hobson31 July 2020
Cobargo Bushfire Relief Centre sign near Cobargo Showground.

The grass is greener in Cobargo as the town slowly rebuilds from the past summer’s bushfires. Photo: Cobargo Bushfire Relief Centre Facebook.

Initial responses to a Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC) survey on post-bushfire needs has shown that half of all respondents say they are not coping, while many still need water and suitable accommodation.

Following devastating Black Summer bushfires that ripped through Bega in December, January and February, the local community is still recovering from the aftermath.

In an effort to strengthen the connection between individual concerns and recovery support, the council wants to reach as many respondents as possible to determine the most pressing needs within the community.

Chris Horsburgh, BVSC’s project lead for its Recovery, Resilience and Rebuilding program said that 1900 people registered with the recovery support service, and more than 360 people have answered the survey, but he hopes for more.

“Six months on from the disaster is a challenging time for people, more so for our community following the Black Summer bushfires,” he said.

“Adrenaline from the response period is all used up and there is an increased sense and feeling of loss and the reality of the recovery journey ahead as that becomes clearer. At the moment, COVID-19 is making that more complex for people.”

Person looking at bushfire in distance near Braidwood.

Braidwood resident Jarrah Knowles captured this bushfire image near during the past summer. Photo: Jarrah Knowles.

Problems the community faces include difficulty accessing water due to infrastructural damage, and matching accommodation needs based on people’s individual circumstances.

“Some of the issues will remain and people will require ongoing support,” said Mr Horsburgh. “Many people affected by the bushfires were dependent on rainwater and they no longer have a means to collect that water because their homes were destroyed. Until they can rebuild, other solutions will be needed.

“Housing suitability is another issue. There are no one-size solutions. People’s circumstances shape their needs.”

BVSC has partnered with Service NSW and Resilience NSW to develop the survey and is already following up with survey participants who are facing challenging circumstances.


READ MORE: Christmas in July on hold as Cobargo rebuilds


“Community groups and local charities have distributed water tanks, arranged temporary accommodation for people who need to stay on their properties, and have organised mental health workshops,” said Mr Horsburgh. “Councillors are working with mental health providers across the shire and with governments to ensure mental health services are available.”

People who have registered with the BVSC recovery support service will be invited to complete the survey via email or receive a call from the Australian Red Cross.

“Across the shire, what I am hearing most frequently is that we’ve come a long way both for individuals and for communities, however there are many challenges to be worked on now and ahead with this journey,” said Mr Horsburgh. “I hear the recognition that the recovery journey ahead of us is a marathon.”

Members of the community can contact Bega Valley Shire Council’s recovery support service on 02 6499 2345, or email [email protected].

Original article published on RiotACT!

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