Down on the farm, one year on from Tasmania’s bushfires

Down on the farm, one year on from Tasmania’s bushfires

08 January 2014

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Australia — One year on from the devastation of Tasmania’s 2013 bushfires, Sarah Gillman talks with farmers with different stories to tell, but similar experiences in the aftermath as communities came together to support each other in the recovery process.

January 4 2014 marks the one year anniversary of Tasmanian bushfires that devastated areas around Dunalley and Forcett, the Derwent Valley and the East Coast.

A dry Summer, along with record high temperatures, high winds and a line of thunderstorms across the state had combined to generate catastrophic fire condtitions.

203 homes, more than 201 outbuildings and caravans, boats and vehicles, and significant power infrastructure were destroyed along with several businesses, one school, one police station

Thousands of livestock and wildlife perished, and although no one died as a direct result, an interstate firefighter later died from natural causes.

Twelve months down the track, many of those affected are still struggling with the demands of rebuilding and getting on with their lives.

They say the recovery process has been challenging.

Dunalley resident and farmer Michael King lost everything in the January fire and says while gardening has helped them get through the process of rebuilding, it’s been difficult.

“We were trying to put back 100 years in one, and that is very difficult.”

“I sadly lost both the house and the shearing shed.”

Mr King described his lost shearing shed as an ‘iconic’ building; one of three shearing sheds in the district that were lost, making shearing a challenge as well.

He also explained to Statewide Mornings presenter Sarah Gillman that there were a number of difficulties associated with trying to replace the buildings.

In the Derwent Valley, farmers Pip and Jim Allwright own Jones River, a four thousand acre wool-growing and mixed cropping farm.

They’ve had lots of help from friends and family over the past year, but they too say it will take time to fully recover.

“Because we didn’t have the ABC Radio, (which we hope we will have a tower shortly), we had to sit there and wait.”

When police asked them to leave, Mr Allwright and his sons decided to stay and defend the property, and were helped by Forestry Tasmania workers in saving the house and sheds.

The Allwrights cited coordination of the immediate volunteer assistance, use of local knowledge and post fire access to properties as significant issues that they faced after the disaster.

Psychologist Rob Gordon told Statewide Mornings that while anniversaries can seem artificial, they are significant markers which allow people to stop and assess how they are dealing with things.

He said many people keep busy initially but after everything is built and seemingly back to normal, they can break down and it’s never too late to ask or help.

The Tasmanian Government maintains the Bushfire Recovery website, aimed at providing continuing assistance to those affected by the bushfires.

Listen to the Allwrights and Michael King speaking with Sarah Gillman one year on from Tasmania’s bushfire disasters.

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