Flood recovery still in full swing

March 3, 2024 BY

Picking up the pieces: Alina Simon, Jonas Rausch, Keith Colshan, Caleb Winchester, and Mal Stepnell come from all walks of life and are part of a group of 20 volunteers helping with recovery in and around Goornong after January flooding. Photos: SOPHIE FOUNÉ

PARTS of North Central Victoria that were flooded in January may now have been baked dry by the sun, but efforts repair damage are still very much underway.

Disaster recovery organisation BlazeAid set up a camp at Goornong at the start of February to look after those who volunteered to assist with the recovery.

Camp coordinator Graeme Allen has a background in project management and has been involved with BlazeAid for the five years since the Black Summer bushfires in East Gippsland.

He said the camp has 50 properties on its list to work on, and volunteers come for between one day to a couple of months to help out.

Work is expected to be completed towards the end of March, and people have come from far and wide to help.

“They come from all over the place,” said Mr Allen. “Some are new to BlazeAid, and some people are volunteers who come back to camps time and time again.

“Primarily people come because they want to help others.

“BlazeAid essentially comes in to sort of help the community, just to feel that there is someone helping them and caring for them.

“There are some properties that have been fairly badly damaged, and some of the people are unwell or disabled and they just can’t do it.”

The camp is funded by donations and the work largely involves fixing fences.

Retiree, Keith Colshan from Bendigo, said he started volunteering with BlazeAid after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires that swept across the state.

He said he was volunteering at Goornong one day a week because he has volunteer commitments on other days.

“It’s quit fulfilling getting fences back up and clearing up for farmers,” he said.

While most are volunteers, German backpackers Jonas Rausch and Alina Simon arrived in Bendigo last weekend and were sent to help out by contractor Jay Brady of Brady & Partners Construction Group.

Mr Rausch said the money they earn will go towards their Australian travels.

“It’s surprising that the river is quite lower than it was when the flood happened,” he said. “In Germany, we had a flood last year, but it’s very uncommon.

“I like the idea to work to help other people, so that’s kind of the best thing that could happen to us.”

It was Caleb Winchester’s first day with BlazeAid and said he was volunteering on his day off.

“I thought I’d come help out because the damage was pretty bad and just to fill in and help fix it out because a lot of people were hurt.”

Retired firefighter Mal Stepnell lives on a farm in the area and said he could sympathise with the people affected.

“I’ve not been flooded or burnt out, but I know what it’s like, can be pretty challenging mentally,” he said.

Samantha Griffin, Anitta Fea, Cheryl McKay, and Graeme Allen helping to look after volunteers at BlazeAid’s Goornong camp.