REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Grief, getting on with it, and getting ready

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend.

Australian Community Media has a team of journalists across the country working hard to bring you not just live coverage of the fires but an understanding about the impact on people in their communities. As a nation we are a long way off the recovery stage, this crisis is still very real. These are the real experiences of real people.

 Aaron Salway, with his nephew Harley Salway, 2. Just behind them is the ridge where Aaron's father Robert, and brother Patrick Salway died protecting their property in Wandella. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Aaron Salway, with his nephew Harley Salway, 2. Just behind them is the ridge where Aaron's father Robert, and brother Patrick Salway died protecting their property in Wandella. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

With three farms to run and fences to fix, there's no time to grieve

In a face covered with grime, soot and charcoal, there was no hiding the terrible pain behind the eyes of Aaron Salway. Just over a week ago, he had lost his younger brother, Patrick, 29, and his father, Robert, 63, to the terrible firestorm that had ravaged the tiny farming hamlet of Wandella, just behind Cobargo on the Far South Coast.

Now, with Patrick's blond-haired two-year-old son, Harley, sitting with him on his quad bike, he was back on the farm fencing, trying to keep his emotions in check and slowly, painstakingly, attempting keep the family together and preserve what little was left.

"We're all feeling numb, to be honest," he said. "We're hurting bad. And we've cried. But we've got to keep going."

READ MORE of Peter Brewer's, first published on The Canberra Times.

Noel Butler says the fire storm that incinerated his property is a wake-up call for the entire world. Photo: John Hanscombe

Noel Butler says the fire storm that incinerated his property is a wake-up call for the entire world. Photo: John Hanscombe

Budawang elder Noel Butler mourns for country and his special place in it

As Budawang elder, artist and teacher Noel Butler surveys the ruins of his once lush property at Woodburn, he talks about the ferocity of Saturday's firestorm.

"We were well prepared. There was nothing we hadn't done to prepare us for a bushfire that had been raging around us for a couple of months. I had no fear whatsoever of finding something like this," he said, his face etched with exhaustion and shock.

Every structure is destroyed, the house just twisted tin and ash. What was rainforest is now burnt to a crisp, blackened and in places still smouldering.

Noel and his wife Trish had been staying with friends in Mollymook on Saturday.

"We'd had a nor-easterly all day at Mollymook and I knew we had that southerly change coming up."

In the early afternoon when they checked on the property, in the hills west of Ulladulla, the heat was fearsome.

"I don't normally wear shoes - I know where I can and where I can't - and this was like when I used to work in the Kimberley, so hot you couldn't stand on the gravel. I wanted to hose down again and Trish said, 'No I feel that we've got to get out'."

READ MORE of John Hanscombe's article

Paul Szymik.

Paul Szymik.

Brindabella Valley community fears repeat of 2003 fires

The Brindabella Valley community to the west of Canberra is bracing itself for a repeat of the 2003 bushfires that swept into the ACT. "We are anticipating that the fire will be here on Friday or Saturday and we are preparing for the worst," Paul Szymik, president of the local fire brigade, said.

The ACT Emergency Services Agency on Wednesday night advised the fires in the Snowy Mountains "may impact" the ACT.

The Dunns Road fire, Adaminaby Complex fire, which is burning north of Adaminaby, and the small Atkinsons fire were being closely monitored.

"We are prepared to respond to each and every incident that may occur," the agency said.

It is too early to say that 2003 will be repeated. Much depends on wind direction but the community is preparing for the worst.

"We are waiting for the weather and the change of wind," Mr Szymik said

READ MORE of Steve Evans article here

In other news across Australia ...