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BlazeAid healing hearts and fixing fences for Cyclone Seroja-hit farmers

Saturday May 8, 2021 - 09:49 EST
ABC image
BlazeAid volunteers clean up trees after they were blown down by Cyclone Seroja. - ABC

With a mission to repair hundreds of kilometres of fences and mend battered spirits, volunteer rural fencing organisation BlazeAid has established a base near Geraldton in Western Australia. 

When Cyclone Seroja hit the Mid West region last month, many farms lost their fences to falling trees, accumulated debris, and wind. 

BlazeAid WA coordinators Judy and Ed Bland have set up a camp at Yuna in the Shire of Chapman Valley, and have already organised volunteers to get to work restoring fences. 

"When we saw the cyclone coming we knew that there was a really good possibility that our help would be needed here, particularly when we knew it was going to impact farming areas, which is our concern," Ms Bland said.

"At this point, we have 36 registered farms [needing help], a few of those are from the Perenjori and Morawa area, and a few are from further west near Northampton and Kalbarri."

Ms Bland said it was not yet known how many kilometres of fencing needed repair, but it was a figure that would run into the hundreds of kilometres.

As BlazeAid relied upon volunteers, Ms Bland said more were needed in the Mid West. 

Along with containing livestock and cleaning up trees, Ms Bland said the support offered by BlazeAid often made an emotional difference to people recovering from a cyclone. 

"We see massive changes, none of us are trained in any sort of psychological evaluation or anything like that, we are just people who care," she said.

"Quite often we find that farmers who have been through disasters tend not to speak to the neighbours or anyone else who's affected because everyone thinks the next bloke down the road is worse off, so can't tell him their troubles.

"One day with a BlazeAid team can make a massive difference to what they say and how they feel ? just knowing that complete strangers care enough to come and help them.

"We do a lot of emotional reclamation as much as we do fence reclamation."

Ms Bland said BlazeAid would work across all Mid West shires impacted by the cyclone and would look to establish other bases as needed. 

Chapman Valley shire president and Yuna farmer Anthony Farrell said farmers in the shire juggling cyclone clean-up and taking advantage of rain to seed their crops were grateful for the assistance. 

"After the devastation, people didn't know where to start with fences down and stuff like that, it's just been a really great help for the community and giving them that positivity," he said. 

He said the community was slowly recovering and the initial shock of the cyclone was passing, but it would take some time before life was back to normal. 

Mr Farrell expected some people would be without power for up to two months. 

"That's been pretty annoying, particularly when you're trying to seed and run your business," he said.

"Myself, I've had to go have a shower when I get home at two in the morning and then trot across the paddock and turn the generator off ? it's not much fun."


© ABC 2021

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