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Band Together rocks Tathra, Reedy Swamp, Vimy Ridge bushfire recovery

1927 played like it was 1988 again – THANK YOU! Photo: Ian Campbell.

An extraordinary chapter has been written in the recovery story for the Tathra, Reedy Swamp and Vimy Ridge communities.

Close to 4,000 people packed the Sapphire Coast Turf Club yesterday and relished the spark delivered by a mix of performers across three stages.

Talk of this day first started to bubble on social media less than 24 hours after 65 homes were destroyed.

The concert is now on track to raise $250,000 and push the Mayor’s Bushfire Appeal towards $1.4 million.

Picking highlights from the day is an impossible task:

  • The Chris Harland Blues Band out of Canberra played like the devil in the heat of the afternoon sun.

  • Just as day was turning to night The Figmentz signalled the party that was ahead, Sam Stephenson’s version of “With a Little Help My Friends” – OMG!

  • After racing from a gig in Melbourne the night before, Daniel Champagne cast his spell under an almost full moon before racing back to Melbourne for his next gig.

  • 1927 took to the stage with “Compulsory Hero” and “That’s When I Think of You” like it was 1988 again.

  • Kids from Bega Valley public schools, under the banner of the Sapphire Coast Learning Community almost stole the show with the B52’s “Love Shack” – Tathra’s Max Navarette rocked on a donated guitar after losing his own in the flames of March 18.

As the Hoodoo Gurus took to the stage just before 9 pm the temperature dropped to seven degrees, the heat and energy generated by the boys mixed with the cold to create a Band Together weather system; a fog that moved out from the stage enveloping the massive crowd; the clear skies above carrying “What’s My Scene” all the way to residents on Black Range Road to the west.

Andy O’Donnell and Sam Stevenson from The Figmentz – Joe Cocker would have loved it! Photo: Wendy Grealy Facebook.

The NSW Government’s Recovery Coordinator, Euan Ferguson believes the healing power of music was at play. “Music allows you to drift away from where you are, there was a sense of letting go of some harm and tragedy last night,” Mr Ferguson says. “The concert was an important milestone and coincides this week with the fact that we have now cleared 60 blocks, the bulk of the demolition and transporting of debris has been completed.”

Close to 4,000 people packed into the Sapphire Coast Turf Club for Band Together. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Perhaps more precious than the dollars and cents raised was the fun this event created. A priceless moment to switch off, celebrate what has already been achieved, and in a way reset for the long days still to come.

It’s hard not to think a new normal will start to settle in, one that is perhaps a bit more low key than rock’n’roll bands, Prime Ministerial visits, and breakfast TV features that have been a necessary part of the past 10 weeks.

Drawing on his recent experience with the Northern Rivers floods and Western Australia bushfires, Mr Ferguson says the Bega Valley is now moving towards a more homegrown recovery routine.

“There is a real optimism, last night’s music allowed that to come to the surface,” he says.

“Reedy Swamp, Vimy Ridge, and Tathra are on the road to recovery, these are strong communities with strong local leadership – you can do this.”

Students from the Sapphire Coast Learning Community almost stole the show. Photo: Ian Campbell. As Mr Ferguson suggests Band Together is a new line in the sand, there have been a few along the way since March 18 that this community has faced with courage and dignity. What next? Perhaps it’s those little things each of us can do that becomes a feature of the weeks and months ahead – part of the homegrown recovery. Clinical psychologist Dr David Younger says, its common for people wanting to help or seeing a need, to feel out of their depth. “You don’t have to be able to solve all of someone’s problems, you don’t have to be able to fix everything,” he advises. “Just know that being there and listening in a kind way is helpful, community supporting community is where it starts.”

The Hoodoo Gurus – AWESOME! Photo: Ian Campbell.

Dr Younger has presented a number of well-being sessions covering all the different experiences people have had and continue to have around the bushfires.

“It’s really important to disconnect on a regular basis from what you are doing in recovery,” he says.

“Losing a home and then rebuilding a home is a long-term process, what’s really important for people faced with challenges is that they make space for normal life.

“One of the things we say is to not make life all about recovery.”

Band Together reminded us of that, it took people out of recovery mode for a few hours but at the same time is part of the recovery and moves the community on to the next phase.

Darren Jones and Jess Ryan – look what you did! What an enormous effort to pull an event like this together, that said can we do it again!?

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

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