by Caroline Hayes, Sir Ivan Fire Recovery Support Service
As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual
In February 2017, a devastating fire ripped through farming land between the small rural towns of Cassilis, Coolah and Dunedoo. 55 000 ha was burnt, 147 properties significantly affected, 46 homes either damaged or destroyed and 173 outbuildings either damaged or destroyed, including a church and community centre. The small rural communities of Leadville, Uarbry, Cassilis, Coolah and Dunedoo were left with the massive task of recovering from this natural disaster.
Due to the scale of agricultural impact, joint Commonwealth and State funding (through the Natural Disaster Relief & Recovery Arrangements) was received through the NSW Office of Emergency Management’s Disaster Assistance Guidelines to establish a Recovery Support Service based within DPI’s Rural Resilience Program. The Recovery Support Service aims to provide a single point of contact for people affected by the fire and provide information and support to assist them with their recovery efforts. Dealing with a natural disaster of this scale can be extremely traumatic, so having a service that can help people navigate their way to the support and information they need is important.
Rural Support Workers Caroline Hayes and Sue Freebairn have been working with people affected by the fire from the beginning and have now been appointed as Recovery Support Workers for the next 12 months.
‘Initially we were stationed in the Recovery Centre at Coolah and in the Village Hall at Cassilis along with other service providers, to provide immediate information and emergency support and assistance’, explained Caroline.
‘The funding will allow the Rural Resilience Program to provide an ongoing one-on-one personalised service to affected people. The dedicated Recovery Support Service was instigated based on the needs we were seeing first-hand from people affected.’
As well as providing a single point of contact for people, Caroline and Sue will also be informing other support services about people’s recovery needs and issues.
A number of government organisations and support services including the Rural Financial Counselling Service, Local Land Services, NSW Health, Rural Assistance Authority, Red Cross and the CWA have all been working together to support people affected.
‘It can be really overwhelming as there are a range of different assistance measures managed by different groups and this can become confusing, especially when someone is already under stress.
‘It is our role to ease the burden and make sure people know what assistance is out there, how to tap into it and ensure they have access to relevant information and support to move forward in their recovery.’
Sue and Caroline have both worked previously as Rural Support Workers so understand the process of accessing support. Sue was Director of Nursing at Cooinda Coonabarabran for 25 years until her retirement. In 2013, in the wake of the Wambelong Bushfire, she started working with the DPI to support those communities affected by fire.
Caroline has worked with farming families and communities for 20 years, helping them to improve business and personal resilience through improved communication, networking, business management and personal development. Caroline has spent more than nine years with DPI in rural support roles and has also been a Rural Financial Counsellor.
‘Women play a crucial role in recovery from disasters such as this. Without wanting to stereotype, women often have input into the financial management and may also be the ones with more established support networks. We often hear from women that they are worried about their blokes, so making sure everyone involved in the business is part of recovery is essential.’
Recovery Support Workers:
m: 0429 212 368
m: 0407 971 675
The Rural Resilience Program can help farming families by:
Creating opportunities to connect with others in farming communities, as well as connecting with support services.
Providing information, tools and development opportunities that build skills, knowledge and experience.
Supporting families while recovering from adverse events and helping them prepare for the future.
Listening to farming needs and issues and communicating these to policy makers.
Rural resilience officers:
Cobar: Ellen Day
m: 0427 639 761
Coffs Harbour: Jen Haberecht
m: 0400 160 287
Goulburn: Ted O’Kane
m: 0427 781 514
Hay: Danny Byrnes
m: 0400 374 258
Tocal: Liane Corocher (coordinator)
m: 0427 188 643
Rural Support Workers:
Walgett: Robyn Walters
m: 0438 082 731