Following last week’s web post, I received so many thankful email responses from subscribers/tourist, intra and interstate wanting to be kept posted on conditions here in the Southern Shoalhaven. The responses were so positive, I thought to do this following brief update.
Yes, a lot of people have being doing it tough and its been felt by all members of the community to one degree or another. There has been a lot of grieving, however I must also mention that there is some beauty shining through by many members of the community in their efforts to help in whatever way they can.
The above image is that of the local clubs who have and still are doing so much to help those effected. At the height of the emergency they acted as places of shelter, providing a safe place to stay and be fed and now they are working collectively to help our community and smaller businesses rebuild and recover following the recent South Coast bush-fire crisis whereby Conjola was the hardest hit, where 3 lives and 89 homes were lost.
With the area like a ‘ghost town’ for the first three weeks in January, a guest staying at Mollymook Beach Waterfront made a point of going to a Milton shop and buying a dress. The shop owner was so grateful, she gave this visiting customer a big hug. So the following day the same lady drove into Ulladulla and bought a shirt, likewise she was warmly embraced and thanked by the shop owner. One would have to be present in the area to understand the devastating flow on effects the disaster has had on the local economy.
The local economy, employment / employees income has been devastated, almost non-existent in many cases thus extending the grief and hardship throughout the area.
The enormity of the NSW South Coast Catastrophic Bush Fires:
Mr Vince Di Pietro AM was appointed as the Shoalhaven Recovery Coordinator. He has had a distinguished career that includes the Royal Australian Navy, (senior leadership roles both in Australia and overseas) and most recently the CEO of Lockheed Martin Australia. In this his new Recovery Coordinator role he is working with council, in partnership with the emergency services and government agencies in ensuring that assistance is provided where it is most needed.
He said that “about 80 per cent of the land area of the Shoalhaven has been impacted or burned in some way“
‘Acts of Kindness’ that I have become aware of in the local area
Relief from around the world:
Larry Williamson arrived in Australia having flown 18 hours from Houston Texas to provide help for those who had suffered loss due to the bush fires. Susan and John Downs brought him down to the Ulladulla ‘Disaster Recovery Centre’ where I had the pleasure to meet him.
We then met with representatives of the Red Cross, Mission Australia and a representative of the Shoalhaven Council. John had two containers (Back in the USA) containing; cleaning supplies, kitchen products and many other items to numerous to list, all brand new. United Parcel Services (UPS) had agreed to fly the two containers to Australia (free of charge) to help with our relief efforts.
This is just one example of the generosity flowing into the area from around the world.
Treading Lightly (MUD) is a ‘not for profit’ volunteer organisation in the Milton Ulladulla District. Volunteers primarily work behind the scenes in an endeavour to create a cleaner and greener coastline. Donations are received from a multitude of avenues that help fund their projects. Following the catastrophic bush fires, they chose to use funds on hand to help cloth those who had lost everything. They partnered with clothing shops in Milton and Ulladulla that included Sachi, Salt, Threads and things, Salty Sea Dog, Sarah Gabrielle, Aqua Surf shop, Saunders Men’s wear and Comfort Shoes. Here fire affected residents can receive brand new clothing to the value of $200 and footwear to the value of $150 from each of these shops with their respective costs being covered by Treading Lightly (MUD).
Katie Macartney and sister Vicki Geraghty arranged an enormous supply of clothing made available for the bush fire casualties
Milton Doctor Katie Macartney having had first-hand experience dealing with victims of the recent catastrophic South Coast Bush Fires was determined to do all that she could to help those in need in as ‘practical way as possible’. As Katie had correctly observed “when people are fleeing a fire the last thing, they think of taking with them is clothing”. So with help from her sister and Mum in Sydney they spread the word seeking clothing donations. They were inundated with clothing; some items were designer dresses from the England, valued at approx. $1000 ea.
Katie was overwhelmed with the response; she said “a) We counted 40 fire affected families who benefited from clothing donations b) Two of the most beautiful dresses which were sent from London (value of each approx. $1000) went to two local women. One received a wedding dress! Another a year 12 graduation dress with shoes! c) Later the left over clothing was made available to the public for a ‘gold coin’ donation. An additional $2000 raised was donated to ‘Treading Lightly’ MUD
Wendy from Lake Conjola wrote: “I wanted to share this amazing act of kindness with you and our community. Frank and Lynn Condello from Yatte Yattah nursery lost everything in the fires. They walked away with only the clothes on their back after a traumatic escape from the savage fires that roared through their property with little warning .
Today my girlfriend (Nicci ) and I coordinated the donation of a car to Frank and Lynn Condello. An elderly couple from Sydney were offered only a small ‘trade in value’ on their Ford sedan which had only travelled 120,000 kms. So they decided that they would donate the car to a suitable recipient affected by the fires.
The accompanying picture shows Frank and Lynn and their dog Georgie receiving the donated car from John and Jan. Frank and Lynn are so overwhelmed with the generosity of a couple they didn’t even know. John and Jan drove the car to Lake Conjola from Sydney and were very pleased to present the car in person and meet Frank and Lynn.
Recipients were overwhelmed by this act of generosity.
The Elabed family and friends drove down from Sydney and donated 2 truck-loads of supplies and cooked countless meals for the fire crews fighting our Shoalhaven fires.
Amazing generosity from Sam Soukie, Ali Farhat, Fady Hamade, Billy Chafic, Amer Saadi and Ahmed Chafic. ‘Synergy Scaffolding and Access’ came to the aid of the Shoalhaven Community & fire fighters. These fellas delivered water far above and beyond expectations to our fire effected communities. Sam the owner purchased the water bottles and donated the use of his trucks to bring the water bottles down from Sydney. This he did with his staff after the completion of working all day. They distributed their loads of water bottles throughout the area that included Conjola and Sussex Inlet.
Acts of Kindness extended to our native animals: 1st pic; Water tanker driver Damian Campbell-Davy’s told the Sydney Morning Herald that he saw the Koala emerge from a group of Pine Trees in Nerriga and ended up feeding the little guy water from his water bottle for over an hour. 2nd pic; Patrick Boyle, an amazing person with such a big heart! (Credit: Facebook)
Woolworth’s supermarket Ulladulla paid all staff affected by the Bush Fires $5,000. each. A local teenager whose family home was lost in the New Year’s eve fires, works as a casual during the school holiday’s. He was overwhelmed by their $5,000 gesture. The accompanying pic was taken at a Woolworth’s store whereby it paid this family’s $700 grocery bill.
Coles Supermarket Ulladulla recognised one of the Bush Fire victims buying essential items. The Manager insisted on filling his trolley with all manner of necessities as a donation from Coles. Value as I recall amounted to $750.
Best and Less Ulladulla, likewise were on the lookout for bush fire victims whereby the manager when alerted, paid for each families chosen clothing and underwear.
More Snippets; ‘Random Acts of Kindness’
Locals were quick into action following the New Year’s Eve fires.
Restaurant dining establishments were hit very hard, no tourist, they were virtually empty. Local retirees began making bookings and encouraging friends to join them, in some cases making up tables in excess of 15 people (Pic 1 at the opening of the Bawley Estate Restaurant) . At another venue; The ‘Small Town’ food and wine bar, another retiree noticed a group coming in; it was celebrity chef Rick Stein and a group of friends going from one restaurant to another having a single course at each restaurant. Pic 2, (taken last week) displays the fabulous food still being served at the Rick Stein Restaurant. On a sad note the Ulladulla Indian Restaurant has closed down from today. I understand there are some other retail shops also being forced to consider their financial position.
Mollymook holiday homes owned by Canberra and Sydney residents were immediately made available (rent free) when the bush fires occurred for devastated families on a short term basis whilst they arranged long term housing with their insurance companies. Likewise, local holiday apartments and motels made their vacant accommodation available. (Vacant due to the mass cancellation of bookings)
Local Real Estate agents: Due to the immediate shortage of long term housing required by those who had lost their homes and all their possessions, local Real Estate agents (with owners permission) were able to make available a large number of fully furnished holiday homes for long term permanent rentals.
Student Erin Riley decided to expand the scope of the appeal for housing on social media, creating the site “Find A Bed”. In two weeks, it was so successful she had over 50 volunteers helping handle requests and placements for accommodation.
Disaster Recovery Centre: The ‘people power’ at the ‘Disaster Recovery Centre’ are doing an amazing job endeavouring to solve the multitudes of issues that have emerged with the patience and understanding necessary dealing with so many grieving families. Just yesterday alone, one example was that of the Red Cross. Their representative spent all day helping a destitute lady who had lost everything, had no where to stay, was virtually homeless. The lady had lost her caravan/dwelling and shed that was on a friends farm. Because it wasn’t her farm, she was not covered by insurance. (The friend died as a result of these fires) The Red Cross has arranged temporary accommodation for her and are helping her obtain some form of Government assistance. (As of today I understand that the voluntary organisation, Treading Lightly (MUD) are involved in the provision of a replacement caravan free of charge)
Fund Raising: Last night at the Mollymook Surf Club there was a fund raiser taking place for a lady who lost her home and all her possessions at Conjola Park. Her massive loss was compounded by the fact that her estranged husband had not re insured her house. She is left with nothing other than many friends who are doing all in their power to help limit her loss.
‘Goodness‘, ‘Acts of Kindness‘: The list is almost endless with examples of ‘Goodness’ and ‘Acts of Kindness’. The above are just a selected few examples to share with readers and are by no means a complete list, simply recorded in an endeavour to share with subscribers the ‘Recovery’ that is taking place in our area of the southern Shoalhaven.
Australia Day Long Weekend, (almost 4 weeks on)
Pic 1. Tim body surfing a recent wave at Mollymook. The above surfing pics show a beautiful clear green water. This is a far cry from earlier in the month when the surf was littered with ash and embers making the water murky and the shoreline black. The 2nd pic is Garry J. enjoying the moment and being able to temporarily get his mind of that nightmarish New Year’s Eve when he fought those fierce fires in an endeavour to save his farm and buildings.
Local foliage along the burnt out highways, are beginning to show some life.
Monica Mudge, the driving energy in local volunteer organisations; ‘Take 3 for the Sea‘ and Treading Lightly (MUD) posted these pics on her Treading Lightly (MUD) Facebook page. As simple as the message may seem it is already having an effect. The Mollymook Milton Ulladulla and surrounding areas are open for business. A Sydney resident, Chris A. arrived two days ago with his Esky empty. He bought all his supplies in Ulladulla for this week’s holiday in the local area rather than his past practice of bringing supplies from home &/or supermarkets and alcohol outlets located in Sydney. He even got his medical prescriptions, refilled at an Ulladulla Chemist.
Today ‘Australia Day’ there is a noticeable increase in the number of visitors to our beautiful area, albeit not comparable with the numbers of past years.