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St Peter’s Bounces Back from Bushfires

by Isabella Heslop

Following the devastating bushfires, the COVID-19 crisis has only emphasised the suffering felt by those in the Eurobodalla community. However, St Peter’s Anglican College continues to rebuild and expand its connections with the regional area.

On the 31st of December 2019, stifling smoke surrounded St Peter’s, as flames completely engulfed encompassing bushland. The blaze drove the neighbouring community from their homes as it tore through Broulee and the surrounding area, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The only reason the school was not obliterated was due to the resilient and dedicated families who stayed behind to defend it, including the principal Darren McPartland; ‘When you come this close to a fire of such magnitude, I think the dominant emotion is fear’ he stated ‘The fire is just so powerful and we realise how powerless we actually are’.

The New Years Eve Fires ripped through Broulee and the surrounding area. Photo by Isabella Heslop

Throughout the bushfire season, the school sustained much damage. The administration building was disintegrated by the flames, while many of the Junior School classrooms faced irreversible smoke contamination. A temporary office building has now been added to the front of the school while the admin building is being replaced, and all ten junior school classrooms have been entirely refurbished. Unfortunately, the new administration building arrived just before the school closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Construction wasn’t the only thing to be obliterated. During the clean up over seventy large trucks left the site full of burnt debris from the school gardens. Since the school has been closed until only very recently due to COVID-19, there has been a shortage of students to maintain the gardens, bringing about a swell in the number of community volunteers coming forward to assist in the school's market garden program.

Recently, a new market garden stall has been established at the front of the school to enable residents to purchase local produce grown in the school gardens. The community has responded well; one local woman shared: “I live close by, and it’s been a lovely place for me to walk to and visit with my dog and at the same time buy some lovely fresh homegrown produce!”.

The market garden program has assisted the school in connecting with the community. Photo by Isabella Heslop

The school landscape gardens have also gained attention with students set to plant over one thousand new trees during the year.

Overall, despite the struggles faced by the school over the last several months, St Peter’s Anglican College continues to support one another and the neighbouring community. Where there has been destruction, there have been enduring connections to assist everyone through these difficult times.

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