Our community are STILL Suffering in Silence and falling through the cracks
Ten months on from the devastating fires that impacted so many in the South East concerns are still being voiced regarding the firestorm survivors who’s homes sustained damage, but were not totally destroyed. A close examination of the disparity between how those who lost their homes, and have been supported, compared to those who’s homes were partially burnt and damaged can not be ignored. But sadly, unless you are one of the unfortunate your exasperation is going unheard. One such victim who wishes to remain anonymous so as to not bring undue attention to her case told the Beagle "I have watched two families who’s homes survived the fires suffer terribly. As their stories are very similar I think I can safely assume that there are many others out there experiencing the same difficulties." "There is no escape from the bad memories or the trauma. The people with no choice but to live in their damaged homes are surrounded by and live in the mess. Broken windows are boarded up, burnt fibreglass insulation particles fall through the ceilings and belongings from rooms that are not habitable are piled up in the rooms that are. It is chaotic, dark and depressing." "Like the rest of us, they lost all their sheds and garages. Like the rest of us, they had precious, irreplaceable family memorabilia stored away in those sheds. Like the rest of us, they lost lawnmowers, blower vacs, line trimmers, all their tools, tractors, musical instruments and more. Like the rest of us, everyday they remember something else they lost that they had forgotten about. "Why are people still living like this over ten months down the track you might ask?" "Because many of us are battling the insurance companies Jane (not her real name) said "It has turned out to be an unfortunate truth that those of us, myself included, who lost our homes are better off when it comes to obtaining an insurance payout. It is difficult for an insurance company to dispute a claim when there is literally nothing left but a pile of rubble. "For the people I am concerned about, my friends and neighbours, it is a different story. It is complicated, but some of the reasons they remain in limbo are due to insurance companies failures in processes and promises". "They wait for builders appointed by the insurance companies to turn up. They wait for the builders to make their reports and recommendations. When there are disagreements regarding the reports and recommendations, they wait while there are disputes back and forth. Often other experts need to be consulted. They wait for the experts to come and inspect. They wait for the experts’ reports and recommendations. "The insurance companies also put a lot of the onus back on the customers to take on the work that initially they said they would do. "The bushfire attack level ratings add another level of difficulty and expense. The insurance companies are only willing to pay out to fix the fire damaged sections of the properties in line with the new standards using the required materials. This will leave the houses looking ridiculous and still not in compliance with the new regulations. "This ongoing battle and never ending follow up is a full time job. And Yes, to the readers who ask, they have accessed all avenues of available legal advice and relevant support services. "Both of the neighbours I am referring to will have to completely move out of their homes and store their furniture when the repairs are finally done. Both will require shipping containers, caravans and pods. Just like every one else. Both of these, homes, both of these families referred to in this one of many cases, are longstanding and active volunteers in our community. "Their roles did not stop after the fires. In fact their roles intensified. For example, in addition to battling for a fair outcome for themselves regarding insurance, they are having the same experience trying to replace insured community owned assets that were lost or damaged in the fire." "One person is gravely ill in hospital as we speak. Others are having ongoing counselling. All break down in tears on a regular basis. All are very unwell. ** To be eligible for this assistance, you MUST have lost your primary place of residence ** "In the beginning when this was a stipulation for the great majority of grants and offers of financial assistance, I thought this was fair enough. As the year has unfolded I no longer think it is fair at all. It is a sad state of affairs when I think to myself that in some ways I am better off that I lost everything when I compare my situation to my friends’. I feel guilty that I am eligible for assistance and they are not. "Eurobodalla Shire Council has opened up the second round of $1000.00 grants. This grant money was donated to the Council to disperse to the firestorm survivors in our community. The people I’m referring to here are not eligible. "There is an $800 cash card that can be applied for. Once again the source is donated money from a community group in Sydney. Yes, you guessed it, these people aren’t eligible. "Individuals, businesses, not for profit organisations and charities from around Australia and all over the world donated millions of dollars to help all of the firestorm survivors. I am sure that all of those who donated would be very concerned and distressed to hear that the money is not been equitably distributed to those in need and those who continue to suffer. "What do we do to right this wrong? I don’t know, but it is really getting to me. These people need help now. That is why I am coming forward. I am hoping that people out there may have some suggestions or know what to do."