10 April 2024

Michelago rallies around couple who lost home to fire, thousands raised in days

| Morgan Kenyon
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destroyed house

The cause of the fire that destroyed Ian and Marion Hooley’s home is still under investigation by the local RFS. Photo: Adrian Ljubic.

It began as a Tuesday like any other for Ian and Marion Hooley. The couple got up bright and early on 2 April, heading into Canberra from their homestead on Kelly Road, Michelago, for some shopping. By noon, they had lost everything.

Neighbour and friend Adrian Ljubic says his stomach dropped when he looked outside to see the Hooleys’ garage well alight. By the time he ran to the property, it was engulfed in flames. The Hooleys’ beloved dog, Gordon, was still inside.

With the roof already on fire and the interior all but gone, Adrian quickly realised there was little hope of saving the labrador. He waited on the scene until the local RFS arrived before calling Ian and Marion to come home.

The couple arrived just as Gordon’s body was retrieved. He was found curled up on his mat where he’d rest when nobody was home. He is now buried on the property in his favourite sunning spot.

“Gordon was a true gentleman,” Adrian says.

“He was ruled by his stomach, as most labradors are, and loved the rural life. Marion often had to rustle a bag of chips just to get him inside!

“We don’t think he suffered whatsoever, but it’s still a tragic loss and he will be remembered dearly.”

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Despite losing their best mate, dream home and all of their belongings, Ian and Marion have remained remarkably resilient. Adrian describes them as exceptional people.

“The Hooleys are the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” he says.

“They’ve never had much but would give their last dollar if it would help someone in need. Over the past week, I’ve heard them say time and time again how lucky they are to have family, friends and love in their life, and that it’s all they really need.

“While they stood in front of their burning home, Ian and Marion were checking on the firefighters. They’re truly, truly special people.”

Alongside the Hooleys’ children, Adrian decided that very night to set up a GoFundMe to support Ian and Marion in the coming weeks. The original goal was $5000 – anything over that, they decided, would be kept a secret.

“We thought if we could just raise a few thousand, it would help them get started with the essentials,” Adrian says.

“Little did we know, Michelago would rally behind the Hooleys and raise more than $20,000 in three days. We never imagined how immense or immediate the support we received would be.”

Just a week after the fire, the Hooleys’ GoFundMe has surpassed $27,000 in donations from supporters throughout the township and beyond.

Boxes of clothes, homewares, furniture and appliances are also being collected at a friend’s home in Michelago Village.

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Adrian has opened his home to Ian and Marion, who will continue to live with him while they start over. The plan is to convert their remaining shed into a granny flat.

He also secretly organised an evening get-together at Michelago Hall on 13 April to surprise the Hooleys, present them with donations, and give the community a chance to show their support in person.

“On behalf of the Hooleys and from the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone standing behind us for your phenomenal support,” Adrian says.

“It’s a testament to the amazing strength, sense of community and closeness our little township has.

“There are still a few days to go before the BBQ – if you’d like to contribute please add your name and a message along with your donation, it will mean so much to Ian and Marion.”

Donations to the GoFundMe for Ian and Marion Hooley can be made here.

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