Black summer . . . one year on.

Brett and Tammie who had their property destroyed by the bushfires.

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“We were burnt out on New Year’s Eve,” says Bill. “It’s had a fair impact on our property.”

It has been one year since the 2019-2020 bushfire season ravaged the Australian landscape. Known as the “Black Summer”, the fires burned over 17 million hectares, claimed 33 lives and wiped out 3,094 homes, leaving communities devastated.1

ADRA Australia, together with local Seventh-day Adventist Churches, began responding to the growing disaster in November 2019. One of the couples that ADRA helped was Bill and Sandra, farmers in East Gippsland, Victoria.

“We lost about 90 per cent of our pastures and four to five hundred bales of silage, plus fencing,” Bill told ADRA in early 2020. “That’s a big blow to our farming business.”

Like many of their neighbours, Bill and Sandra are primary producers. ADRA was already working with their farming community to provide drought relief through food support. So when fires tore through the area, ADRA already had a presence there and was primed to give help.

Affected farmers received immediate support from an ADRA cash grant. And a team of ADRA volunteers distributed weekly essential food items and helped to rebuild kilometres of burned out fencing.

“We’ve had help from ADRA with an electric fencing unit which is very useful,” said Sandra. “Our animals were trying to get on the road, so we were able to contain them.”

ADRA also provided a seed and fertiliser grant to assist in recovery, so, when the rain finally started to fall, Bill and Sandra were able to produce 113 bales of hay to feed their livestock.

“Being tenacious farmers I’m hoping we will get back on top of it again in the very near future,” Bill said. “ADRA have supported us 100 per cent.”

ADRA recently caught up with Bill and Sandra, and “get back on top of it again” they have.

“Things are looking a lot more positive,” says Sandra. “We’ve had rain, we’ve had grass growing. We’re having issues with a lot of weeds being present, but at least there’s something there for the animals. And they are doing very well on it I will say. So we’ll have hay for the winter.”

New Year’s Eve in 2019 is also when farmers Brett and Tammie’s property in Cobargo in NSW was consumed in a firestorm, burning their family home to the ground. 

“We had no grass because we’re in drought,” Tammie said. “So we thought that once the fire came over the mountain it would fade out. But it came down like fireballs. And we lost everything.” Many of Tammie’s family members also experienced loss on that fateful night.

“Six members of our family lost their homes and properties,” said Tammie. “But we’re all still alive.”

Banding together as a community and with ADRA’s help, the town of Cobargo and Tammie’s family have been rebuilding what the fires destroyed.

Tammie told ADRA recently, “With the funds, we have purchased tanks, pipe, troughs, fittings, pressure systems and electric fence units for our properties so our animals that did manage to survive were able to be looked after and watered. It was a great help just when we needed it. I’m not sure how we can ever truly show our appreciation for the help and support we have received. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”

The Black Summer of 2019-20 decimated the lives of many Australian farmers. But thanks to people like you, ADRA was there and ready to provide immediate food, cash grants and ongoing farming assistance to people like Bill and Sandra and Tammie and Brett. Your gift of just $A50 can help ensure ADRA is there and ready to help people in need next time a disaster strikes.

Ashley Stanton is the Media and Communications Coordinator for ADRA Australia and New Zealand.

1. According to the Parliament of Australia
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