Forgotten Friday

The Community Recovery Committee Bunyip Fire Complex is made up of residents, some pictured here. From left: Liz Wishart, chair Tony Fitzgerald, Gary Burns, vice chair Sue McMahon, MP Russell Broadbent, Jane McLaughlin and John Fitzpatrick. Picture: MITCHELL CLARKE 198297_02

By Mitchell Clarke

Dubbed ‘Forgotten Friday’, Tonimbuk residents rebuilding their lives after bushfires tore through their township are furious it’s taken almost seven months for a politician to visit the area.

Their anger fuelled by a media release from Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing new income assistance to people affected by fires in Queensland and New South Wales, leaving them asking where their slice of the payment pie was.

The Community Recovery Committee for the Bunyip Fire Complex invited Monash MP Russell Broadbent to the Tonimbuk Hall on Monday 23 September after residents were concerned that people in Queensland were getting a benefit over and above their community.

“The fire was in March and here we are today, it’s nearly October and we still haven’t received anything, as they rightly say we feel we’re the Forgotten Friday,” committee chair Tony Fitzgerald said.

The federal government activated the Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA) 10 days ago which will see people affected by fires eligible to receive income assistance for up to 13 weeks.

While Mr Broadbent said he was unaware of the announcement, he believed the local and state governments had worked well in the fire recovery and that he’d look into any potential flaws within the system.

But Tonimbuk residents say they’re yet to gain a cent of government support, let alone receive a visit from a politician.

“The state government just don’t care. They don’t know where we live, they don’t know how we live and they don’t know what’s required,” resident Rex Newton said.

Mr Newton fled the fires with just his dogs, cats and cockatoo in tow. He lost his house and everything around it.

Now left with nothing, the hobby farmer is urging politicians to make the effort and visit the community.

“Get off their a*** and make like they care, we pay their wage, let them earn it, they haven’t been here and they wouldn’t even know where Tonimbuk was. It’s not good enough,” he said.

But he’s not holding his breath, claiming the state government has no interest in country, instead accusing them of selling the land off to quarries and buying milk from China.

“Ask Daniel Andrews where Tonimbuk is. He thinks it’s in NSW so what hopes have you got?

“We’re not in the electoral area, we’re not heavily populated and Daniel Andrews is only interested in suburbia, his interests cut off at Pakenham.

“It’s wrong but that’s the system.”

The committee are hopeful their meeting with Mr Broadbent will be the start of them receiving vital assistance. They’re now calling on Narracan MP Gary Blackwood and Cardinia Shire mayor Graeme Moore and CEO Carol Jeffs to visit the town.

“In this sort of situation we need our leaders to be leaders and to be with us,” Mr Fitzgerald added.

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