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Sydney Fires: Community care helps Shoalhaven overcome disaster

Posted on: January 8, 2002 11:21 AM
Related Categories: Australia

The Shoalhaven district, about 250km south of Sydney, has born the brunt of the bushfires. Now the communities of the region are pulling together to help each other through the disaster.

Much of the relief effort is being co-ordinated through the region’s largest centre, Nowra, which has a population of 25,000.

"Our aim has been to make the church a centre of support," said the Rev Sue Willis from All Saints, Nowra.

All Saints, Nowra, is well known in the district through its caring ministry All Saints Community Care. But Ms Willis has also made sure that there has been 'open time' in each church service for people to share their stories and ask for prayer.

"All the phones have been down so parishioners have been unable to ring each other to see if friends are OK and share information," she said.

All Saints has a number of parishioners who are fire service volunteers and many more are Anglicare emergency team volunteers, including Ms Willis, who were called-up in the middle of the night to register evacuees. Others have been involved in preparing food for the volunteers, while the church bus was lent to transport firefighters.

"The church has also supplied food and toiletries via All Saints Community Care. We have taken them to the centres where the evacuees have been coming," said Ms Willis.

Ms Willis is thankful that there has not been any homes lost in Nowra itself from the fires. However power cuts have had an impact on local businesses, and dairy farmers have had difficulties pasteurizing their milk. The local sewerage plant is not working.

Nearby towns did not escape. Indeed, the fire swept into parts of the seaside town of Huskisson. The flames caused a tree in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Huskisson, to explode and the Rev Ray Goldman was forced to evacuate his family from the rectory. A number of parishioners of Holy Trinity also had possessions and property destroyed in the fire.

Ms Willis says the All Saints community is also turning its attention to help solve the longer-term issues.

"The district is very reliant on tourism and this will not be the peak tourist season that was expected. Some key businesses have also been destroyed in the fires," she said.

Ms Willis expects that many of those affected by the fires will turn to services offered by All Saints Community Care.

"One of our specialties is our advocacy work. It is a free service that helps people deal with financial management issues. I expect a number of people will be facing bankruptcy as a result of the fires," she said.

Also in demand will be the three Anglicare counselors working in an office next-door to All Saints Community Care in Nowra and another office servicing the badly affected Jervis Bay and Georges Basin areas. Also heavily involved in debriefing those affected will be the Rev Neil Brain, rector of Culburra Beach parish, who is a member of the State Emergency Service and involved in chaplaincy work.

Ms Willis suggested that readers who wish to help should send donations to the Archbishop of Sydney's Emergency Bushfire appeal.

Article from: Anglican Media Sydney