His parents plan is to rebuild and in the meantime have decided to live in a campervan on their land. “A lot of people who are insured are taking rentals on the coast and they’re going to come back when it warms up and start building. What mum and dad are doing is quite a daunting task in terms of camping out there in the winter and toughing it out, it’s not something that everyone would be up for.”
Jack says his parents, who are in their 60s, have set up a kitchen in a shipping container, they have electricity but don’t yet have council water. “Their whole life is here, there’s that strong connection to that particular property. Dad was camping out there within a month … and then mum followed not long after.”
Jack's dad, Swampy, in front of the new house he is building with his family. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Aysha Leo
Not starting again, but moving forward
The couple, who lost almost everything they owned, are trying to stay positive, but it’s up and down, he says. “My parents they’re not money people … They had a lot of art, they collected a lot of things … you can’t replace that.
“Every day’s a new day and when mum and dad lament the loss of an item or a collection, I try to be there … 'Yeah, that’s a bummer, but it’s more time to keep this collection going. Just because you lost your collection, it doesn’t mean you aren’t still collectors.'"
He tries to help his parents see they aren’t starting again but continuing what they’ve always been doing. “’You’ve lost everything up until now but you’ll keep doing what you’re doing, and it’s only a matter of time before things start feeling like you’ve got something again.’”
Since the fires, Jack says he has found it hard talking to people who didn’t experience it firsthand. “That has been hard – entering back into the world outside of the fire. For a long time now, I feel like I could only hang out with people who have been through it. My friends are quite sympathetic … but then you hear things from people which are like, ‘Oh, that was a bit off.’”
He has found it hard too, to listen to the politicking, debates, judgements and misinformation that have followed the fires. “It’s really good to be talking about things but talk about them with an open mind. You don’t know what it’s like until you’ve lived through something like that.
“The last thing you need is division … we don’t all have to agree on things but … people need to come together and work towards something – especially in these times.”