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My Bushfire Recovery So Far…and Why it is so Difficult to Find our New Future

The Beagle Editor,

I wanted to share how I am feeling and what has happened in the six months since our house burned down on New Year’s Eve in Malua Bay.

The month of January was spent in Canberra where we took refuge with relatives. We felt anxious about the fires that continued to burn near Moruya, and in Canberra. We felt separated from our fellow bushfire victims, we yearned to connect with them and share our experiences. We spent our time in Canberra shopping for items we wanted to replace and would need when we finally moved back to the coast in some future rental. It felt very odd as we traveled around the city and people there were just living their normal lives when we were so devastated and in shock.

Mid-February we located a rental in Tomakin with the help of a good friend. I was thrilled to be back on the coast and back to my favorite farmers market. I missed our old life, but going through the nesting process in the holiday home was distracting enough. We started to connect with friends and knew that being with people was a big part of healing our trauma. Then Covid hit us, our human relationships which was our medicine for healing from trauma were cut off and we were by ourselves. Watching too many news reports on tv is NOT good medicine.

The end of March and the beginning of April was spent disassembling the amazing vegetable garden structure my husband built for me on our property, and potting up any plants that were worth saving for a future home. We were prepping the land for the cleanup crew to come in and take the rubble away. We have chosen to sell the land and buy a home elsewhere.

It was at this point that grief hit me with a vengeance. I was working on our property when I heard the big truck from our neighbor’s burned out home rumble out their driveway on the way to the tip. I knew that all their hard work and love was gone, scraped off their land and carted away forever. I knew our house was next. I burst into tears at that moment and haven’t stopped since. I know a lost house is not a lost human being. But my husband and I put years of work into our home, we gave it love, we made it ours. I truly believe our home had a soul because the loss of it sure feels like a death. We have a nice amount of insurance money to work with, but that can never replace our personal treasures that marked a lifetime of memories and experiences.

Towards the end of May I reached out to the free counseling services offered by Catholic Care. That was a great decision, and I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with bushfire trauma. I don’t feel so alone anymore, and it is wonderful to be sorting out all the emotions and feelings associated with our loss. Covid has put a strange spin on life. My husband says we have been robbed and put in prison. I can’t argue with that. I will add that this whole experience of losing our home has peeled away to a new layer of myself. I think I have accessed a deeper sense of compassion for my fellow man. I cry when I hear of a tragedy or a travesty, I cry good tears when I witness acts of grace and kindness.

I bet our house hunting on the internet began a few days after the house was gone. We are still at it. Is anyone else out there having a super hard time finding a half to one acre property with an open plan house on it?? The way property blocks are parceled out in Eurobodalla is shocking. We are actually becoming quite angered by it. Why does council think we are all fine with living on a postage stamp? I have NEVER heard anyone say anything good about council. They seem to want to pack us all onto tiny pieces of land so they can maximize their rates. Instead of being public servants, they are public enemy #1.

People are attracted to Eurobodalla for its natural habitat and its rural setting. They are leaving the cities to get away from the busy side of life. I’ll bet they would like a little space. Council is making it so that the only option is to move right back to a city setting. Many of these postage stamp neighborhoods don’t even offer a community space where there could be an area for a community park or playground. If the grassroots is going to cure society’s ills, how can community be fostered in these neighborhoods with no central meeting zones? We certainly can’t depend on council to help us out.

Covid has taught us that we need to reevaluate. The bushfires have taught us the same. I think that more people would like to be able to grow a little of their own food. Maybe set up a volley ball net in the backyard. Park their boat in an extra shed. How can we do this on a postage stamp? Our dream of a new home is quashed daily when we look on the internet and find nothing. I pray for a miracle every day.

Lindsay Gates & Randy Knispel

(Still renting in Tomakin)


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