Inspired CFA firefighters from the Wimmera region have helped raise more than $90,600 through a community-organised fundraiser for the bushfire-affected community of Walwa in north-east Victoria.
Firefighters from District 17 on deployment in North East Victoria
Following the bushfires that raged across the state during the 2019-20 fire season, a team of motivated Warracknabeal locals and CFA members decided to offer a helping hand to the fire-affected regions by forming the Wimmera to Walwa Bushfire Relief Fund.
Many CFA firefighters, including Warracknabeal Fire Brigade Captain Cameron Whelan, were deployed to fight fires affecting the North East and saw the destruction caused by the fires to the surrounding farm land and livestock near Walwa.
The Wimmera Strike Team was one of the first to be deployed to Tallangatta in the Upper Murray region during the 2019/20 bushfires.
Captain Whelan said the crews’ experience connecting to members of the Walwa community and fighting off the relentless fire threat during deployment compelled them to do something to help.
“As the days dragged on the community began to feel isolated as the fire threat persisted, almost like it was circling the township,” he said.
The community fundraising project, which saw 100% of the proceeds go to the Walwa community, included raffles, online auctions and a range of other events organised and supported by a number of local community groups.
“The generosity and the spirit our wider community showed was astounding, evidently personal donations were a large part of the donation total,” Captain Whelan said. “Others kindly donated their time, hay and machinery to help transport stock feed to the bushfire affected area.
Organisers of the Wimmera to Walwa Bushfire Relief Fund contacted the Walwa Bush Nursing Hospital which formed its own committee responsible for dispersing the funds to where it was needed most.
The funds have helped Walwa locals who were most affected by bushfires and were suffering financial hardship to get back on their feet by covering some of the costs directly associated with the recovery.
Captain Whelan said the funds went towards fencing materials, covered the cost of insurance excesses, vet bills and developed a large number of vouchers to be used at local businesses.
“Some of the money was donated to the local CFA brigade to help them replace one of their small vehicles and a local primary school was also a recipient to help with their student support activities,” he said.
“Importantly, the funds have also been used by the Bush Nursing Centre to provide a dedicated role assisting people affected by the bushfires to access relevant grants. Within a three week period they were able to work with 11 families to get them grant funds they would otherwise have missed out on.
“To receive this amount of overwhelming support and donations the Wimmera to Walwa Bushfire Relief Fund has been truly humbling and it has meant the world to the Walwa community.”