Friendly support to heal post fires

23 November 2021

Carmel Brophy knows well what it’s like for life to be thrown into chaos; she and husband Michael lost their Malua Bay home in the Black Summer Bushfires.

Now she’s ready to use her experience to help other impacted residents who may be feeling socially isolated following the fires.

Carmel volunteers in Eurobodalla Council’s Volunteers for Bushfire Recovery program to support people in the community who want to make new friends, try new activities or who just want to feel more connected.

She said it’s easy for social engagements to fall to the bottom of your to-do list when you’re trying to rebuild your world.

“Social isolation is inevitable when it becomes preferable to stay where you feel safe and comfortable,” she said.

“All the practical things that had to be done after the fires, coupled with the emotional turmoil, was exhausting. It was bushfires one week, floods the next, and then Covid hot on the heels.”

Carmel said that with so much to process, community healing time was not given the priority it deserved.

“I am trusting that this program will go some way to demonstrate the value of those community connections,” she said.

“I am hoping that by participating I will have the opportunity to cross the hesitancy some people may feel.  My experience of the fires and afterward means that I may have some understanding of how people are feeling.”

The program has 20 trained volunteers from varied backgrounds who are matched, based on mutual interests, with the person wanting support. They may want to try bushwalking, engage in a particular community group – or just meet for a coffee and a chat.

“Now that we’re out of the lockdown, people may be willing to set forth again,” Carmel said.

“The hardest steps are the ones that take you out your front gate for the first time.

“It’s a wonderful program and I encourage anyone thinking about it to get in touch.”

For more information on the Volunteers for Bushfire Recovery program contact volunteer development officer Maxine Plant on 4474 7445, 0456 651 426 or email Bushfire Volunteers.

Agencies and residents can also register for support using an agency referral /resident enquiry form.

The Volunteers for Bushfire Recovery Program is managed by Eurobodalla Council with funding from the COORDINARE Primary Health Network.