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Practical generosity in the wake of the devastating bushfires on the South Coast

Tim Gavel 17 January 2020
Helping out at Cobargo following the devastating fires

The crew from Queanbeyan and Canberra having a well-earned rest at Cobargo. Photo: DJ Homes.

It’s hard to comprehend the devastation created by the bushfires along the South Coast, beyond what is best described as a catastrophe. The loss is so great. Yet from this devastation, stories are emerging of selflessness and generosity.

When Queanbeyan’s Grant Jones heard from childhood friend Daniel Tarlinton that Daniel’s uncle needed help, Grant didn’t hesitate to round up his family and friends to mobilise a recovery effort.

Daniel, a coal miner from Queensland, travelled to Cobargo with a crew of helpers to support his uncle, Richard. Richard’s 333-hectare dairy farm carries 460 cattle. Of these, 240 are milkers. The farm was severely impacted by the fires. Fences and infrastructure were lost.

Bushfire recovery work at Cobargo

Recovery work underway.

It’s been a tough few years for dairy farmers with the crippling drought, coupled with the low prices for milk. For some, the bushfire pushed them to breaking point.

It was obvious Richard needed help and with Dan on the ground in Cobargo, Grant was brought into the picture. “We received a phone call from Dan. He said my uncle’s place has been hit.”

That was the catalyst for Grant.

“We put out a post on social media. Some offered their services to help, others offered financial support,” Grant recalls.

The Jones family is a family you’d call in a time of need.

Over the years they have established a strong reputation in the Queanbeyan-Canberra building industry, as well as for their years of involvement with the Queanbeyan Whites Rugby Club. Volunteering is very much in their blood.

So armed with family and mates, many of whom are tradespeople, they conveyed bobcats, excavators, generators and equipment to Cobargo.

Convoy of concern

The convoy of help ready to leave for the South Coast.

Grant says the scene on Richard’s farm was one of devastation. “I’ve seen burnt paddocks before but everywhere we looked there were fences destroyed, burnt out paddocks; it was devastating.”

They got to work, cleaning up the property, pulling down burnt fences, pushing trees off fence lines and rebuilding fences by putting strainer posts in. They also cleaned out water holes, removed timber on the ground.

Devastation on a property at Cobargo

The devastation left behind after the fires at Cobargo.

In just two days, Dan says the impact was remarkable: “It changed things for us. It has put us six months ahead in terms of repairs.”

Not content with just helping the Tarlintons, a number of the Jones crew then headed to help the Salway family. The Salway farm was not only severely damaged by the fires, but the family was mourning the loss of two family members who died trying to protect their Wandella home.

Again the Jones crew swung into action fixing fences, clearing paddocks and repairing infrastructure.

They were in the region for four days doing their repair work, as well as donating materials to the Cobargo Bushfire Centre. It was exactly the assistance these families needed.

Repair work on farms following the Cobargo fires

Work undertaken has helped farmers get ahead on repair work following the fires.

That commitment was just the beginning.

“We’ve also raised $18,000 which we will put towards fencing costs. Our support for them won’t end here,” Grant says.

As one of the locals from Cobargo said in response to the help received: “The words ‘thank you’ will never be enough. Your emotional support, physical contribution, machinery, donation of goods and services has been absolutely phenomenal! You have got us back on track and heading in the right direction. You’re not just builders, you’re superstars.”


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