The feeling of family is often tied to the place we grew up, where we forged our earliest memories. For many people in remote communities like Buchan, Victoria, that feeling of family is enough reason to never leave. Even when everything’s gone.
When Mick looks over his family’s cattle farm today, he feels the same quiet beauty but sees a very different landscape to the one he grew up with. The town of Buchan in the East Gippsland region of Victoria was scorched by the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires. In the midst of regrowth, the charred skeletons of trees still scar the hillscape. The trauma and grief of losing everything in a violent, burning wave still lingers.
The entire region has been burnt to its roots.
In the more than three years since his home and its surrounds were consumed by fire, Mick has remained without a permanent place to stay. He describes the aftermath as ‘horrific’.
And yet he speaks of an even more profound pain.
“The worst thing that’s happened recently was my father passing away. He didn’t have the opportunity to come out here and stay, which I regret deeply.”
In the fallout of the fires, Disaster Recovery Bush Chaplain Peter Harvey has been devoted to supporting the region. As part of his outreach, he has witnessed extraordinary resilience and determination. And he has seen that many have not yet healed, that so much support is still needed even if concern from outside the community has slowly ebbed away.
Disaster does not disappear overnight.
“There are a lot of people still struggling to find their place in the region.
“Some are still struggling with the sounds and smells of fire.”
When Peter recently spoke at a community gathering detailing the support Frontier Services could provide, Mick embraced the opportunity and humbly asked for assistance. Within weeks, a group of Outback Links volunteers rallied to his property, ready to set the stage for a long overdue homecoming.
“It’s three and a half years since the fires came through, and Mick is only just getting back into his house,” explains Peter. Mick himself adds, “It’s been a long, slow road [to recovery].”
The Outback Links volunteers cleared the fencing that was completely wiped out by fire. They cut back overgrown grass which had taken hold of garden beds in
“It gives you incentive to keep going, do more,” says Mick. “So this is a real bonus – this is just fantastic.
Every little tiny bit we do while [the volunteers] are here is just icing on the cake really.”
It’s an enriching experience for the Outback Links volunteers themselves. James, an experienced volunteer based in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, says,
“Fifty years in IT did not prepare me to go and be a farmer. However, if I can go out and help somebody, I can mow, I can paint, I can use a whipper snipper. I just enjoy being able to help people.”
Above all else, the Outback Links volunteers were there for some campfire companionship shared with a warm-hearted, appreciative host who’s been through a lot.
“You have no idea how much this means to me and how grateful I am,” Mick says.
For survivors of the Black Summer fires, recovery does not mean getting back the life they used to have. Life will never be the same. But the presence of Disaster Recovery Bush Chaplain Peter Harvey and the Outback Links volunteers can make pushing forward that little bit easier.
Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing help is available, that people care, and that there is strength within, ready to be awoken.
Mick has shown what strength he holds. People like Peter and the Outback Links volunteers will always be there to remind him.
Watch the video
Be part of our ongoing presence in Buchan
Disaster Recovery Bush Chaplain Peter Harvey is leading a group of Outback Links volunteers to help properties and local businesses rebuild.
We are accepting new volunteers for this exciting project.