A huge recovery effort following the St Patrick’s Day fires is well under way, and for people like Bill Bourke, the real work is only just beginning.
The St Vincent de Paul regional president said agencies like his were entering their busiest phase as people took stock of the situation.
“When the fires first started people are out there trying to get things back to normal, they don’t want to see us there, so after it settles down that’s where we move in,” Mr Bourke said.
“It’s ongoing from now on. We’ll be doing home visits mostly and food vouchers and help with clothing and school fees – any way we can help.” Mr Bourke said many people just needed someone to talk to.
“A lot of people out there just want a shoulder to lean on, they get too embarrassed to ask for anything. We’ve got a phone number that people can ring us, but mostly we go out and visit and have a talk to them,” he said.
“We have visited people who are very stressed and we just sit there and talk to them.”
Salvation Army Victorian emergency management liaison officer Rob Champion said the organisation had been involved in the immediate response and would continue its work during the recovery effort.
“Initially we were completely overwhelmed (by donations from the public) and we tried to give clear communication out to people to donate money and get involved in the Bendigo Bank process,” he said.
“We called in our friends at Rotary down at Warrnambool to actually help us sort through it, and this was just five days’ worth of donations in the beginning.
“That all got sorted and that’s all out on the ground now being distributed to people who need it most and families that have been moved because they lost their homes.”
Mr Champion said people on the ground were working to get help where it was needed.
“We will be led by the community to the people that need us the most and how we can help,” he said.