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Byron Shire
October 25, 2021

How you can help bushfire survivors

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The Busbys Flat Road fire closing in on Rappville. PHOTO: courtesy of Jade Brouwer

Wondering what you can do to help our Northern Rivers neighbours impacted by devastating fires further south?

Last week, Richmond Valley Mayor Robert Mustow said more than 60 people in his shire had to use an emergency evacuation centre, while other centres were set up in Casino for pets and livestock.

By Sunday morning, the RFS had declared 45 homes lost: 37 in the Busbys Flat Road fire near Casino and eight in the Long Gully Road fire near Tenterfield.

Residents of Drake, home to the Long Gully Road fire, had already experienced the loss of 24 houses to fire in September.

Two people died in the Busbys Flat Road fire last week, some have lost almost everything but their lives, while others need essentials to tide them over until insurance comes through and infrastructure and services in the affected areas are restored.

But in the long tradition of Australians rallying together to help each other out when natural disasters strike, three separate entities have already contacted Echonetdaily to let readers know of their bushfire survivor support initiatives.

Mullum local’s emergency fundraiser via Facebook

Jade Brouwer says she was ‘almost born and bred in Mullumbimby’ – her parents moved to the town when she was a baby –  and many will know of her father, long-time Mullumbimby resident and journalist, the late Stephen Brouwer.

Last week, Ms Brouwer’s mother and 15-year-old daughter were among the residents of Rappville who found themselves seeking emergency accommodation at the Rappville Public School when they were evacuated from their home.

It wasn’t until fire conditions eased that they learned their home had survived the Busbys Flat Road fire.

Ms Brouwer shared some of the scenes described to her by her family, including a harrowing exit from Rappville when residents got last week’s emergency warning.

She said cars left in a convoy, led by RFS volunteers who had to clear a pathway by breaking tree-branches as they went.

Her mother and daughter saw two shipping container homes destroyed by fire as well as a metal water tank.

They didn’t have animals themselves but reportedly heard of animals being euthanised as the disaster reached crisis point.

Emergency vehicles rush by tennis courts in Rappville as last week’s bushfire closes in. PHOTO: Courtesy Jade Brouwer

The pair is now recovering from their traumatic experience in the Mullumbimby area but Ms Brouwer says her Facebook fundraiser isn’t for her family, it’s for other survivors.

‘I rang up the Casino Golf Club and they’re giving people vouchers to places in Casino where they can buy new phones and fuel, every day items they’ve lost but need to get by,’ Ms Brouwer told Echonetdaily Monday morning.

Ms Brouwer said the Casino Golf Club was also accepting donations of tents and even caravans for people who have been made homeless.

Later she spoke to staff at the high school in Casino and learned some students affected by the fire need new books, stationary and uniforms.

Ms Brouwer has therefore decided to direct donations raised via her Facebook page, Jade’s emergency fundraiser, to both the Casino Golf Club and Casino High School.

Queensland calling

Brad Costigan lives in Queensland where he was already helping country farming communities impacted by drought when he heard about the bushfires further south.

‘I was supporting the Stanthorpe-Gatton water crisis but my friend Renee from the Byron Bay Chocolate Company told me what was going in Rappville and Tenterfield and I decided to see what we could do to help,’ Mr Costigan told Echonetdaily.

Mr Costigan runs a travel blog-like Facebook page called The Aussie Trekka and is using it spread the word about his bushfire appeal.

‘The initiative I have created and called is ”Make a Farmer Smile”’, he wrote in an email.

‘The goal is to create and pack 50 Christmas Food Hampers for drought and bushfire affected residents of the Granite Belt Region and the Richmond Valley Council Region with Rappville the main focus here.

‘The hampers will be handed out by the Granite Belt Water Relief at Stanthorpe on the 15th December for the residents and farmers of the Granite Belt and on the 16th of December will be dropped off at the Casino Golf Club for them to give out.’

Mr Costigan says people have started donating items and the Byron Bay Chocolate Company, Byron Bay Coffee Company and Victory Café in Woodford (QLD) were ‘already helping to pitch in to create the hampers’.

Experience the drought on a farm for yourself

But Mr Costigan’s fundraiser has a distinctly more interactive element to it: he has organised a fundraiser camp on the 30th November at his friend’s farm near Gatton, west of Ipswich.

‘It’s $15 to camp for the night, all getting donated to the cause of hampers,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘It’s an old vegetables farm but it’s been many years since my friend has grown vegetables, the dam is dry.

‘Over the years my friend has helped other farmers with things like access to equipment and a lot of hale baling.’

Mr Costigan said the farm wasn’t exactly picturesque due to the drought but camping there was a good opportunity for people to see what ‘communities out of the coastal band are dealing with’.

Laidley and the Lockyer Valley were nearby, he said and the farm was full of four-wheel-drive tracks.

It wasn’t the first camp he’d organised: Mr Costigan organised an earlier camp in Stanthorpe called ‘the outback lunch’ in early September.

You can experience what the drought is like for farmers by going to a fundraiser camp in November. PHOTO: Brad Costigan

He said 28 people came, supplied stock food to three farmers and had lunch at one of the nearby farms.

‘All of them brought water to donate,’he said and ‘all the food we needed to buy we bought at the local shops in Stanthorpe’.

Mr Costigan said all camping fees from the November camp would be donated to The Aussie Trekka to help fund the purchasing of non perishable food items for the Christmas Hampers.

‘Any cash donations left over will be directed into purchasing more stock food,’ he said.

Anyone wanting to contribute to Mr Costigan’s Christmas hampers or wanting more information about the Gatton camp in November can go to The Aussie Trekker Facebook page or email Mr Costigan at [email protected]

Vinnies donations

Well-known charity St Vincents de Paul, or Vinnies, says all money made in its north-west and north-east NSW stores will go towards bushfire relief efforts.

Vinnies NSW CEO, Jack de Groot, has said ‘the organisation’s thoughts are with all those who have been impacted by the destructive bushfires this week as well as last month’.

‘We invite people to donate in any of our Vinnies Shops across north-east and north-west NSW or over the phone on 13 18 12,’ Mr de Groot wrote in a media release.

‘While we welcome all donations of good-quality items, giving money is the most effective way to help immediately during the current fires,’ he said.

The CEO said Vinnies had been helping at the fire registration centre at St Mary’s Catholic College in Casino, as well as in the communities of Rappville, Busbys Flat, Drake and Tenterfield.

‘If you’re having a hard time, I encourage you to reach out to our team or drop into your nearest Vinnies Shop,’ he said.

There is a Vinnies store in each of the following towns: Byron Bay; Mullumbimby; Brunswick Heads; Murwillumbah; Kingscliff; Ballina; Lennox Head; Lismore; Nimbin and Kyogle.

A map showing every Vinnies story in the country is available via the Vinnies website.

This article has been updated with a correction: Jade Brouwer’s mother and daughter were evacuated but found out their house survived the Busbys Flat Road fire – an earlier version said the house was lost.


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1 COMMENT

  1. My husband, myself and my adult grandson live in a five bedroom house 600 mtrs from the beach. We have three quite large bedrooms and extra living areas. We could accommodate a small family or three couples if there is any one who would just like to get away for a week or two in peace and quiet while considering their options.

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