Rapid Relief Team volunteer Clare Sharples with Ian Watson at the Nana Glen Community Hall.
Rapid Relief Team volunteer Clare Sharples with Ian Watson at the Nana Glen Community Hall.

Bushfire victim calls out bad language

DEALING with the trauma of having your house destroyed by bushfire is hard enough, but for Ian Watson having to lay his head on a hotel pillow would have been a step too far.

In the aftermath of the November fires, which destroyed a number of properties in Nana Glen, a neighbour offered a house for Mr Watson to stay in, not far from where he had lived for 30 years.

Mr Watson said thinking about what the offer meant to him still made him emotional and staying in his beloved community, without having to live on his burnt-out property, had made a big difference to his mental wellbeing.

"It is a place I know intimately, I have been around here for over 30 years and I am waking up in my environment," he said.

"But if I was at my place waking up there it would do my head in, because every day you are reminded."

Mr Watson was at the Nana Glen Community hall yesterday where the Rapid Relief Team were gifting $1000 cash cards to families in the area who had been impacted by bushfire.

Travelling around the country, the RRT volunteers from the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church had been out on the ground throughout the region.

The importance of that type of practical support was empha­sised by Mr Watson, who reflected on the way bushfire support had been administered.

He said he recognised government processes took time but was frustrated at the language used by politicians and representatives from charities, who maintained support was flowing freely to those who needed it.

"They are all saying it and it becomes a little bit hollow."

"It doesn't happen like that and I really don't want to hear it any more.

"The disruption in people's lives is pretty acute so it is (helping with) their immediate concerns, not the promise of something, that matters."

He was not alone in experiencing difficulties in accessing support, a situation made more difficult by living in a regional area without the same access to services as those in bigger towns.

It was an irony not lost on Mr Watson, who said it was the people in regional areas who were "copping it" most and simple things like taking away copper phone network showed there was a lack of foresight by legislators in ensuring equitable access for people in the bush.

"I don't have (mobile) telephone reception where I lived and where I am living. It's our right to have better communications because it puts everyone in danger without it."

But despite all that had happened, Mr Watson was committed to staying in the bush and said recent events should change the way people engaged and lived within in it.

It started by accepting people were "custodians and not owners" of the land, a view shared by First Nations people and promoting change that involved "getting smart" rather than clearing more land.

"The day we become unable to live in the bush is the day Australians should leave Australia," he said.

"But don't cut every tree down, if people start thinking like that we will cause more problems - don't live in the bush if you have to cut all your trees down.

"That is no way to treat the land; we are privileged to be in this country and we have to act like it is a privilege."