In the 2019-2020 bushfire season, more than 500,000 hectares of land burned in the Snowy Monaro region of New South Wales. In the worst bushfire season recorded in NSW history, homes were destroyed and countless lives were upended in just a few months.
The devastation caused heartache right across the region, a lot of residents lost absolutely everything. Recently, Frontier Services and long-term partner, the NRMA, sent out 30 Outback Links volunteers to assist 11 properties over a period of 8 days.
One of our teams spent three days with John, whose property was completely burnt out during the fires. The 70-year old farmer’s property is situated in the village of Cathcart, Bombala, close to the Victorian border.
John, who lives alone with his dog Ned, describes his property as ‘a bit like Old McDonald’s farm’. An apt description, as John and Ned shared their property with an assortment of mini horses, some sheep, alpacas, pigs, turkeys, ducks and a goose.
Sadly, many of John’s animals perished in the bushfires and when he fled his property to evacuate, he escaped with only 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts and the boots he was wearing. The fires also ravaged everything on his property: cabins, caravans, vehicles, outhouses and water tanks were destroyed. His first thoughts when he surveyed everything burnt to the ground? “Here we go,” he said to his faithful dog. “Ned, old boy, it looks like we have to start from scratch.”
By the time our Outback Links team arrived at the property, John had already begun rebuilding, but it was a mammoth task. John had rolled up his sleeves and started on a project, his new home: a shipping container he was converting into a living space. As the region is known for its cold winters with frequent frost and occasional snow, the biggest task ahead was to insulate and wall the shipping container to provide some much-needed warmth. Within three days, our volunteers had fully insulated and walled the shipping container. Some of the team members also got cracking on mechanical repairs needed around the property. This ranged from servicing trailers and cars to repairing a 15-tonne loader.
John was blown away by the energy of the volunteer team. “They really mucked in and got a heck of a lot more done than I thought they would,” he said. Aside from his gratitude for their manual labour and help with tasks that had been put off, John said he and Ned really appreciated their company. “They were a cheery bunch,” he told us, “and I really enjoyed having a cuppa and a chat with them. Ned sure did enjoy their visit also.” “I’ve been praising both Frontier Services and NRMA ever since. Hats off to them all.”
It was our privilege, John.