— President’s Report, August 2014

BlazeAid President’s Report – 2013/14

 

The success of BlazeAid in Australia since 2009 is simply stunning.

Up to $25million worth of natural disaster recovery assistance for rural people has been completed.

There have been almost 11,000 volunteers who have worked around 83,000 working days since Black Saturday. Furthermore, another several thousand people through their commitment within various community service groups such as Rotary, Freemasons and Lions and smaller local community groups have cooked meals, sought and distributed foods and materials.

Over 2,400 rural families have been assisted, with a flow-on effect to the local communities and businesses.

Several thousand kilometres of fencing  has been either cleared, repaired or completely rebuilt after floods and fires.

 

This year in 2014, there were 7 bases over three states from the fires in South Australia and Victoria, to Queensland with Drought relief – Beginning on February 5 at Laharum (Vic) and Palmer & Angaston, SA and help expected to continue until late August at Julia Creek and Richmond.  Wirrabara, Wandong and Clarkefield were the others.

1,263 volunteers put in 11,893 volunteer  person working days this year alone (as at 30 June).

467 rural families were helped with the replacing of their destroyed Infrastructures. Included were some 831km of flattened fencing or burnt fencing was cleared and 531 km was completely re-built.

These are amazing statistics – Especially so because most of the hard work was done by  semi skilled retired people and grey nomads with basic tools.

They do not include the thousands of people in local communities who support by cooking, cleaning, providing tools and equipment, facilities, bringing gear up to bases etc.

 

Reflections on 2014

Many Shires and local councils were slow off the mark in their support of BlazeAid this year, but the shining lights were Laharum and Richmond who moved quickly to help set up bases.

This delayed cooperation with some Shires is a real stumbling block in early recovery, as evidenced by Mitchell and Macedon Ranges shire. Late starts to basecamps means too much work continues into winter with volunteer number challenges.

I have asked that a BlazeAid rep. speak at a State conference of mayors in October to address this issue.

 

The Bendigo Bank Debit card supplied to coordinators has been a boon in seamless acquisition of supplies and has worked well. Many thanks to Eugene Ross for initiating this and Lyn Bailey for setting up the accounts. The debit cards have been a lifesaver to coordinators and myself alike and for account processing. Thankyou Eugene!

 

The tools and equipment were well organised and deployed out to bases and farms thanks to Eugene Ross to whom we are all very grateful.

He has arranged on-farm secure storage at Wirrabara, Clarkefield, and Tamworth, but more storage space in central Victoria is needed.

He has trailer sets in place for early exit in 2015

 

Australia’s new Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove chose BlazeAid as his first official visit on April 14.

This was an incredible honour with the media coverage further promoting a very high public profile.

The excitement in the lead up to their visit was palpable across the camps. Hundreds of people came, including past, present and interstate volunteers, families we’ve helped, community groups involved in various ways, etc.

Heartfelt thanks to Liz and Scott for welcoming Their Excellencies and the reporters onto their property on the day, and to the dozens of people who worked tirelessly to prepare the basecamp for the visit, and provide afternoon tea.

 

Fundraising Speeches to Interest and Service groups / Thankyou cards and receipts

All of the above have been wonderfully handled by Helene and Dennis Livingston. These two are heaven-sent – BlazeAid Committee’s angels. Absolutely seamless, diligent, loyal, well done, reliable, independent committee workers – it is a pleasure to hear their achievements. I continue to value their wisdom and am delighted with their modus operandi.

 

Our healthy level of donations is almost entirely due to our continued reputation through the quality and quantity of work our coordinators and volunteers do with disaster hit rural families every day. A typical case in point right now is the extraordinary BlazeAid buzz in the drought affected towns of Julia Creek and Richmond. It appears that most local chat is the positive uplifting work that BlazeAid volunteers do to help rural families recover and rebuild physically and emotionally from the scourges of drought, rather than the negativity of the drought itself.

 

The ABC

They deserve a special mention. Ian McNamara, Lee Kelly, Jon Faine, Ian Mannix and the Country hour Exec Director Ian Plover have no peer in spreading the good word about help needed in the bush. Prue Bentley and Jonathan Ridnell who broadcast the Governor General’s visit while Jon Faine was away

There are other reporters and producers who reduce my blood pressure enormously. Words and feelings of priceless and irreplaceable come to mind. I have no doubt that BlazeAid would finish up without the help of the ABC . I am very conscious about time taken up on the airwaves by BlazeAid and only ask for airtime only when necessary.

I and BlazeAid and all community minded Australians cannot thank them enough.

 

I’m also grateful for the support of Nick Macullum of Channel 7 and 3AW has also given wonderful support over the past year.

 

Outstanding Coordinators

The success of a BlazeAid Base is entirely due to the Coordinator there.

Brian Carr got the Laharum base up and running then took over Palmer. Weeks later he moved that base to Angaston – completed the works there and travelled a thousand miles to Julia Creek on May 20 with Drought relief where he still coordinates today. He has written two guides on BlazeAid coordination which will be extremely helpful to budding Coordinators. His signature leadership is one of total control, innovation, inclusiveness, community involvement and above average volunteer days.

Eugene Ross doubled his workload by running the Wirrabara base where the community embraced his leadership culminating with 150 locals attending the windup night. A well-deserved State award recognising Eugene’s work appears imminent this Spring.

Barry Thompson took over the leadership at Laharum from David – did a great job and then he and wife, Bev, travelled a thousand miles to begin BlazeAid’s first Drought Relief base at Richmond on April 21. He also displayed outstanding pragmatism and organisation and has travelled over 15,000 km to liaise with  distressed rural families and provide help.

I continue to be amazed at the inspirational work of Barry and Brian. I still cannot comprehend how or why these bases have run seamlessly without a hitch. I can only put it down to quality leadership and hard work.  Their BlazeAid stories of overcoming adversity and recovery in this drought is the stuff of ‘Current Affairs’. BlazeAid salutes  these two.

Thankfully Angus Guild took over the Wandong base in April and took it to its completion in June. Thankyou again, Angus – you have been extremely loyal and helpful to BlazeAid yet again this year

Christine and John Male took over the Clarkefield base from Greg Duncan in April. It was the first time as Coordinators for all of them. Greg’s early work of establishing the base meant that it was running like clockwork when handed it over to the Males. Christine and John stamped their own signature there with that base evolving into one of the happiest and ‘long volunteer enduring’ we have had in Victoria. The meals and atmosphere were extraordinary, with the weekly Saturday night roast becoming almost legendary. This was highlighted at the Christmas in July camp farewell, where over 130 people came along to celebrate the camp’s success.

Chris’ diplomacy with rural families and volunteers was invaluable, and she overcame a number of challenges with fairness and wisdom. When faced with family issues, Chris and John successfully delegated the work so that they could manage both family and BlazeAid commitments. BlazeAid salutes you.
All of the above were committed volunteers – they worked up to 12 hours daily seven days a week for several months.  The leaders coordinated up to $1 million worth of work for their respective Communities. I cannot over emphasise the importance and value of the work done by these amazing courageous people

 

The absolute essentials of BlazeAid

At this stage BlazeAid could not possibly continue as anywhere near successful as it is without the following :

My wife Rhonda for her unyielding support, patience, devotion, wisdom and advice and help to me – the countless phone calls she witnesses me taking and her warmth in welcoming countless BlazeAiders into our home and the numerous meals and cups of tea she makes for them.

Lyn Bailey in Admin/office for her extraordinary high level of passion and commitment with communicating and liaising with families, Coordinators and volunteers, donors, media, etc. Also running the website, answering hundreds of emails, facilitating the setting up and running of each base, starting up bases, training Coordinators, doing statistics, Committee of Management, Public speaking engagements and all that it takes to run BlazeAid. Her recent Paul Harris Award is well deserved.

You continue to do awesome work and I appreciate you every single day!

Thankyou Rhonda and Lyn!

 

Safety record

Our safety record is an amazing feat of accomplishment as the number of injuries to our volunteers on the most dangerous of workplaces being farms- is very small. The reason for such a success can be attributed to the morning toolbox safety talk, supervision of volunteers and maintenance of equipment.

Thank you to WorkSafe Inspector Wayne – a saviour

I speak to Wayne on a monthly basis to discuss safety issues. He has been invaluable with his practical advice and I and BlazeAid are deeply grateful to him. I note also that Sir Peter Cosgrove was very interested in Wayne’s BlazeAid involvement.

 

Weekly Teleconference

The weekly teleconference between the  base coordinators and committee is an efficient and vital tool of BlazeAid. Prior to this I found it incredibly burdensome to make constant contact with each base,  individually by phone. I cannot emphasise the importance of the teleconferences for the awareness of what is going on.

 

Tax deductibility status

Life would be far easier if BlazeAid had independent DGR  status but a big thank you to Leanne and Alexandra at FRRR for their wonderful ongoing support

 

I am very grateful to Greg Duncan, Ken from Geelong Lions and Sue Beevers  for the coordination of BlazeAid’s involvement in the Australian Sheep and Wool Show at Bendigo in July this year.

 

I am very grateful for the continued support of George Reid of The Thyne Reid Foundation for the seeding grant for Lyn Bailey – office and administration.  His advice in guiding BlazeAid to a more enduring charity for Rural families is invaluable.

 

The volunteers maketh the organisation

The volunteers who work with the rural families and farmers are by far our greatest asset. Their sense of humour their passion, their commitment, their diligence, their willingness to work in challenging and often unpleasant conditions, their sacrifice of leaving family and friends for often long periods, their insistence of making the camp a better place before they leave it is the stuff of legend.

To the families and friends of our volunteers, we thank you for your sacrifices in enabling them to be with BlazeAid, often for weeks and months at a time.

 

Ian and Kay Campbell of Berri SA help with tools and kitchen, and setting up at new basecamps again and again. The time they gave this year in assessing suitable sites for a base in the Palmer/Rockleigh and Eden Valley area was invaluable and saved me hours of work. Thank you Kay and Ian for such wonderful work and support. You are highly appreciated.

 

Committee

Thank you to the Committee members, especially those who have contributed so much this year. I feel strongly that we must have a working and engaged committee to keep BlazeAid strong into the future.

 

Finally thank you to all the people who have made BlazeAid such a brilliant success.  May we keep on keeping on and ‘Take Charge’

 

Kevin Butler

President

August 6 2014

Kilmore East

 

 


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