By Jessica Anstice and Mitchell Clarke
More than 600 BlazeAid volunteers were recognised and thanked for their invaluable efforts in assisting bushfire victims in the road to recovery.
BlazeAid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in the aftermath of natural disasters, like the Bunyip bushfires which ravaged properties in March this year.
Volunteers cleared about 300 kilometres of debris and old fencing and contributed to rebuilding 150 kilometres of new fences.
Community Recovery Committee chairman Tony Fitzgerald organised an event at the Bottom Pub in Bunyip to thank BlazeAid volunteers for their outstanding contribution over the last six months.
“We are here to celebrate the amazing organisation that is BlazeAid who have travelled from the far reaches to come help rebuild the lives of those in Tynong North, Garfield North, Bunyip North and Tonimbuk,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“They have come with big smiles on their faces and compassion in their hearts to give us the great gift of selfless generosity.
“They worked so bloody hard and for months on end.”
Mayor Graeme Moore commended the volunteer’s efforts, describing them as “amazing”.
“It’s true that community spirit that comes from the Bunyip area, you can feel it in the air, I know it’s cold but you can feel the warmth of the community,” Cr Moore said.
“We are like a big, resilient family, we’ve seen it all before, we understand what it’s like to pull together and make it happen.”
Although the focus of the event was on the volunteers, local BlazeAid founders Sue and John Anderson were widely recognised for their achievements in coordinating a successful team.
“The solid and dedicated leadership that local farmers John and Sue have given to the Bunyip community over the last 158 days is extraordinary and way beyond what any community could ever expect,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“How they never buckled under the pressure and workload is a testament to their grit and determination and character as people.”
Despite heavy rain on the night, no amount of water could dampen the spirits of those reflecting on a disaster which brought a community together.
BlazeAid volunteers are currently in the process of wrapping up their rebuilding efforts.