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.
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.”