Change is gonna come, oh yes it will

Michael Weaver 19 January 2020 21
Malua Bay

A not-so-happy new year at Malua Bay looking north to Batemans Bay on 31 December 2019. Photo: David Symons, who with wife Moira, moved there a couple of years ago.

Welcome to Country, on the land where our Elders, past and present, have gathered. We pay our respects to those who came before us and to those who will pass through the land, in time.

As ashes settle on our land, on cars, in our streets and waterways, people across the entire country are looking for answers.

Much has been written about what I am calling my new ‘f-word’, and it is difficult not to be caught up in the constant chatter of what has happened and what is to come.

When you hear politicians telling us that communities are resilient, we all know people are angry and fed up with inaction. When we see an army of resources, we already know a volunteer service has been stretched beyond its limits.

The land is burning. We’ve been burnt.

Yes, we can all make changes – maybe buy a small water tank, or fill a bucket every time you have a shower. Be patient if an item is temporarily out of stock at the supermarket.

If individuals want change, don’t put it in the comments below. Write to your federal member of parliament. If enough people do that, one thing is certain.

Change is gonna come, oh yes it will.

The video below by Cath Blythe shows how people in Tomakin on the NSW South Coast spent New Year’s Eve.

I have spoken to lots of people in the last few months about my new ‘f-word’.

On 30 December, near the NSW-Victoria border, f-word fighters in an eight-tonne tanker two-thirds full with water were told to find the nearest flat ground. When the f-word passed over, strong winds picked up and flipped the tanker. Samuel McPaul, 28, died. Two others were burned. NSW RFS district manager Superintendent Patrick Westwood said other veteran f-word fighters couldn’t believe what they saw.

West of Canberra on 4 January (the really hot day), the Dunns Road f-word travelled 100 kilometres in four hours near Tumut.

A conservative estimate is that f-words have killed almost half a billion animals.

A 20-year-old Mawson man, Luke Grey Thoroughgood, appeared before the ACT Magistrates Court on the really hot day. He was charged with deliberately lighting an f-word and was sent for a mental health assessment.

A close friend lost their property at Runnyford; another friend “lost everything” south of Batemans Bay on New Year’s Eve. In a pub two weeks before, an RFS member warned residents that if an f-word jumped the southern side of the Kings Highway and into the Monga State Forest, the town of Mogo would be in danger.

And Australia’s longest-running surfboat marathon, the George Bass Marathon, was cancelled. It was meant to start on 1 January in Batemans Bay. It has never been cancelled. The annual New Year’s Day Rodeo in Moruya didn’t go ahead either.

We didn’t get time to write those stories.

Thankfully, thousands of volunteers and social media squads have stepped up, along with the aptly-named ‘mozzie squads’ of people in country towns carrying 1000-litre tanks with pumps – a dwindling and precious resource to fight f-words.

Evacuating Moruya

Moruya evacuation plan, ready and waiting. Photo: Alex Rea.

If a Royal Commission finds out what on earth happened, it doesn’t matter the last time “it was this bad”.

It’s this bad now. And if it was any worse, I swear I’d put a swear word somewhere.

I am hardly qualified to say more, so the last word goes to the owners of Dog Leg Farm, at Bombay near Braidwood. Angela Hunter and Jake Annetts were the first of many in the region to lose their home when it burned on Friday, 29 November. Thankfully, their home was the only property to be destroyed, at that stage.

Dog Leg Farm is rebuilding and Angela and Jake gave us permission to share Jake’s thoughts:

Two fire crews rolled into town, probably to refuel and head back out to more horrors. It’s been a habit of late to show appreciation to these fantastic human beings, with a thumbs up or a cheery woot, but these guys were also stunned, exhausted, shocked and overworked and didn’t notice my feeble attempt at raising their spirits.

The smoke got in my eyes and I responded accordingly with a tear. We really are struggling to find hope lately. We are collectively tired of trying to be chipper all the time. Tired of not being able to offer anything other than love or money.

All we have is each other. All we can do is be there and offer anything we have.

I think I always knew this was coming one day, but being in the thick of it is harder than I imagined. I must admit, I’m expecting worse.”

At the time of writing, rain is falling across our region. On 16 January, the NSW Rural Fire Service said 88 bushfires are burning across NSW, with 39 still to be contained. “We have everything crossed, hoping for some good falls across these areas over the coming days.”


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21 Responses to Change is gonna come, oh yes it will
Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:50 am 19 Jan 20

How about all you warmists give written evidence about your claim that the bushfires are “unprecednted” to RiotAct. I’ll also submit my written evidence that everything has happened before.

RiotAct can then be the independent fact checker and publish their results accordingly.

Helen Lowe Helen Lowe 9:31 pm 17 Jan 20

Great reporting Michael, so many stories to tell, great reading. 👍👍

Acton Acton 10:55 am 17 Jan 20

Before every public meeting homage is paid to the traditional custodians of the land whose elders past present and emerging we acknowledge and respect. But did local government follow traditional custodian advice in national park land management or just ignore and dismiss their concerns and experience, making a mockery of all the parroted acknowledgments?

Carole Griffiths Carole Griffiths 9:19 am 17 Jan 20

Very well written Michael. Thank you

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:06 am 17 Jan 20

You use “change” as the theme of your post.

Be aware that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. This is very applicable to the recent bushfires that have happened before and will happen again.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 11:13 am 17 Jan 20

    @Capital Retro I’d be keen to know when was the last time Canberra had hazard air conditions for weeks on end. Yes – bushfires have happened in the past but never on this scale … but of course, to admit that you would have to acknowledge that the scale of these f-words is in part related to the c-word that is associated with change

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:26 pm 17 Jan 20

    There were bushfires near Canberra in January and February 1926. In the Bureau of Meteorolgy Bulletin No. 38, J.C.Foley reported that serious bushfires raged on a five-mile front beyond the Murrumbidgee towards the end of January, while Canberra was covered by a heavy smoke pall for about a week. Early in February immense damage was caused by a chain of fires in grass and timber country between Canberra and Albury. The northen part of the Cotter River catchment was also heavily burnt.

    I suggest that the recent bushfires were no more active that ones 100 years ago. What has changed is that people have elected to live in known bushfire areas and regulators have allowed this to happen without a commensurate increase in planning for the consequences and being totally under-resourced in management of these fires.

    astro2 astro2 4:21 pm 18 Jan 20

    Surely you’re not suggesting that a bushfire towards the end of january 1926 on a five mile front causing smoke for a week in canberra has any similarity to the unprecedented bushfires carnage across NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia (and to a lesser extent, the ACT and Tasmania)? Not sure whether you have digested the meaning of “unprecedented” yet and, probably, you never will. This is what denialism is all about even though it’s now on the wane for obvious reasons (cough cough).

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 6:22 pm 18 Jan 20

    @astro2 Well said

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:31 am 19 Jan 20

    GrumpyMark specifically asked for details about the smoke in Canberra previous to the current bushfires and I provided the facts on that. He hasn’t challenged what I said but then again he hasn’t said “thanks” either.

    You are now referring to something else, namely details of “unprecedented” bushfires across NSW, Victoria,South Australia, Western Australia etc. There is a 300 word limit on each post so I can’t give you everything that you are unwilling to look for yourself but here are particulars of some that occurred in the 1925-26 and 1926-27 bushfire seasons in NSW. I am quoting records compiled by the CSIRO Division of Forest Research records so by proxy, you are calling this eminent organisation “deniers” also. And when I am defending records of factual happenings which contradicts your claims you have no right to call me a “denier”. This will totally debunk yours and your fellow travellers’ claims that these current fires are “unprecedented”. By the way, there is a preamble in the report that mentions “huge fires burning for lengthy periods in the days of early white settlement”.

    I will send the details in another post as they will not fit in this one.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:35 am 19 Jan 20

    I now note GrumpyMark has jouned you in calling the CSIRO deniers by proxy and has added some other nonsense. You should both motivate yourselves to read some books, do some research etc.. Here are the details I promised.

    January-February 1926 large fires destroyed property near Junee, Rydal, Canberra, Albury and Wagga at much the same time as destructive fires affecting large forest areas in Gippsland and other districts of Victoria where 60 lives were lost and the fires burned for 3 months.

    Early in the 1926-27 fire season widespread fires commenced in the north of NSW. By 13 October vast areas of forest and grassland, fanned by strong westerly winds were ablaze on the North Coast. Many of these fires burned until mid November. Stock and property losses were enormous. Under the prevailing conditions of severe drought even rainforests were destroyed.

    For a week after 5 December huge fires throughout the Central Zone of NSW caused great damage and took several lives in districts from Dubbo to Albury. More than 2 million hectares were probably burnt. In mid January 1927 fires in the Junee and West Wyalong districts experienced their most destructive fires for many years.

    I could go on and on and on. Cough, cough indeed.

    astro2 astro2 6:54 pm 20 Jan 20

    Hi capital retro, even you probably wouldn’t believe that the CSIRO are climate change deniers as they are very clear on the research establishing the science. The fires you refer to are not of the scale and extent of the recent bushfires. Just fact check that with the RFS and they will help you reach a conclusion, (if that is what you are trying to do). At no stage in the history of the ACT have smoke levels been so hazardous for so long. No one is doubting this point. So, I’m afraid that you are clinging, more and more precariously, to a thin twig of climate change denial. You obviously don’t want to accept the science and I presume other science as well, possibly – vaccination, evolution, that sort of science too?

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 10:16 pm 20 Jan 20

    You are correct and apologise for not saying “thanks” for proving my point!

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 6:20 pm 18 Jan 20

    @Capital Retro I wonder, do you honestly believe the stuff you write in denying the reality of climate change or are you just trying to get a rise out of people? Actually – are you Craig Kelly masquerading as a Canberran?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:04 pm 19 Jan 20

    Where did I mention climate change? The subject being put forward is about whether the recent bushfires were “unprecedented” and you have contributed nothing to the argument for or against.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 10:14 pm 20 Jan 20

    “a heavy smoke pall for about a week” is hardly comparable to the hazardous air quality that has hung over Canberra for many weeks … or are you now going to dispute that we have even had bad air quality for more than ‘about a week’

Steph Burgess Steph Burgess 7:21 am 17 Jan 20

Oh yes, it must.

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