St Patrick's Day fires relief appeal hits $300,000, funds on way to those in need

Resilience: New fences and regrowth are signs of recovery following the St Patrick's Day fires.  Picture: Rob Gunstone
Resilience: New fences and regrowth are signs of recovery following the St Patrick's Day fires. Picture: Rob Gunstone

The region’s major fire relief appeal has hit $300,000 as work begins to distribute funds to people affected by the St Patrick’s Day blazes.

Cobden and Districts Community Bank Branch and appeal chair James Green said donations across the south-west and beyond, including $80,000 from western Victorian Rotary clubs and $50,000 from the community bank network, had helped reach the total.

Mr Green said money would now start to be distributed to people directly affected through property, stock and other asset loss.

“We are endeavouring to get the application forms directly to those impacted by the fires and will also have forms available at the Cobden and Camperdown Bendigo Bank branches, Corangamite, Moyne and Southern Grampians Shire offices and WestVic Dairy,” he said.

Mr Green said applications would close on July 6. Future funding would then focus on events to strengthen fire-affected communities.

The bushfire appeal is being supported through Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s Community Enterprise Foundation by Cobden and Districts Community Bank in partnership with Cobden District Community Health Services.

Elingamite resident Kerry Gawley, whose five-acre property was affected by the fires, said it was a positive sign that money would soon be distributed.

Fire crews saved Mr Gawley’s house on Browns Road, but his surrounding property, and some other houses nearby, did not fare so well. 

“It’s pretty confronting when you come home to see all that mess. There’s something like survivor’s guilt that you go through as well in these situations,” he said.

“Some of the stories you hear around this area are pretty sad.”

Mr Gawley said the recovery process had been frustrating at times and money from the fund had taken longer than he had expected to be distributed.

“It’s been more than two months now. There has been a lot of people donating. People are expecting that this money they’re giving is helping people, but it hasn’t yet,” he said.

“It remains to be seen what kind of grants they are offering and what hoops you will have to go through.”

The bushfire appeal remains open and people can donate online at www.bendigobank.com.au/southwestvicbushfire, by visiting their local Bendigo Bank branch or by calling 1300 304 541.