Thanks to our supporters we were there for Marianne. It started with a cuppa and a one-on-one conversation about how she was coping and how we could support her.
Marianne evacuated three times in two weeks. With her three dogs and budgie, she spent her days almost constantly on the road, never knowing where she would end up, trying to outrun the fires.
With each evacuation order, she packed what she could with the time she had. Her car boot was filled with spare clothes, photos, food for her pets and her late husband Rob’s ashes.
At the Mitchell River, Marianne was at a loss about what to do next when she remembered the evacuation centre at the local football oval. She decided it was the best place to go next. “As soon as I walked in, the guys said to register with Red Cross. The lady I got was brilliant. I don’t know who cried the most her or me.”
Marianne was exhausted, she hadn’t slept or eaten and had no idea what had happened to her home. Before she left firefighters had told her they wouldn’t be protecting her small village focusing instead on the larger town of Omeo. She had been preparing for the worst.
Colleen helps Marianne let her friends and family know she is safe. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Rodney Dekker
“It’s like a big knot in your stomach. I started crying … but it was the way [the Red Cross volunteer] spoke. She was calming … she was hugging me and holding my hands and she said ‘We’ll get you through it’.”
Our team helped Marianne register with the right services, including one her family and friends could use to check she was safe. We gave her toiletries and bedding to make her stay at the centre more comfortable. But she says it was the one-to-one psychosocial support that made the biggest difference.
“It’s been a tough year. I lost my husband and I’ve had to get through the 25th wedding anniversary on my own … when the fires came that threw another curveball at me and instead of sitting at home I’m in the middle of a paddock.”