AUSTRALIA – From fires, to floods, to the pandemic, the Shoalhaven has experienced hit after hit over the past 18 months.
The region was left devastated by the Currowan fire in December 2019, which burnt for 74 days, destroying nearly 500 thousand hectares and destroying 312 homes.
Now, our locals’ resilience will feature in a special television series to be aired nationally across regional Australia.
‘Living on the South Coast – Shoalhaven Recovers’ is the brainchild of two locals, executive producer and Walkley-nominated documentary maker Michael Pignataro and former Shoalhaven City Deputy Mayor Allan Baptist OAM.
The series features the stories of Shoalhaven business owners, passionate community champions and volunteers who share their own experiences about navigating the hardships of the past 18-months.
Included in the series is Alison Baker, the owner of Banksia Park Cottages who lost her Kangaroo Valley home, with fire damaging multiple cottages.
In the series, Alison tells her story of the Currowan fire being in the background of her summer.
“The Currowan fire burned for five weeks before it got to us,” she said.
“So we were never surprised with the fires like other communities, but the fire did bomb us. The nature of it meant that a five kilometre strip clashed to bring the hottest winds and do the most damage in our area.
“We have 100 acres and we had a 700 tree olive grove, six cottages, our own home, various infrastructure from barbeques to communal areas. We managed to save four of the cottages, but the rest was gone.
Alison is still rebuilding and said the process is “exhausting and endless,” but is grateful for the community support.
“When we arrived back at the property after the fires, friends arrived with trailers and with mulch and buckets and gloves,” she said.
“People coming to help and do the heavy lifting was just amazing, and friends who continued to look after us on this journey.
“We feel very fortunate because we’ve been able to live in a cottage on our property throughout this. We’ve been able to manage the rebuild, but you do get up every day with a very long list of tasks.
“We’ll be pleased when the house is built but the property will never be the same.”