South-west residents have dug deep and raised about $450,000 in less than a month for victims of the St Patrick’s Day fires.
A combined relief fund has topped $100,000, the Victorian Farmers Federation’s disaster fund has raised more than $63,000 and other major funds with Blazeaid and Need For Feed are also well on track to meeting their ambitious targets. There have been countless community, school and business fund-raisers, fodder drives and random acts of kindness, including school children using their holidays to volunteer rebuilding fences.
Corangamite Shire mayor Jo Beard, part of the South West Victoria Community Relief Fund, said those affected were humbled and grateful for the support.
“In true Aussie spirit, people from right across Australia have dug deep in this time of need to help those affected at what is, for many, the worst possible time in their lives,” she said.
“As a community, we are humbled and so very grateful for this outpouring of financial support and the committee’s immediate focus will be on addressing the devastation felt across our various communities and supporting them to the best of our abilities.”
The fund committee, which includes representatives from Corangamite Shire, the Cobden-Camperdown Community Bank, the Department of Health and Human Services and the South West Fires Regional Recovery group, is working to direct the funds to community-based projects.
Community bank chair James Green said while reconstruction was a priority, counselling services were likely to be in demand.
“Trauma caused by these events is often lasting and we need to ensure that we have adequate funding for these services for at least 12 months after events such as these,” he said.
“Further down the track, we can plan community events to connect people... as people rebuild and recover.”
Department of Health Human Services recovery co-ordinator Adam Reilly described fire-affected communities as inspiring.
"Especially in how they have rallied to support the vulnerable members of our community,” he said.
“These funds, along with the already strong community spirit of helping each other, means we have innovative and practical ways that the communities can be supported.”
Terang and Cobden relief centres closed on Friday.