Matt still feels like it’s 1 January 2020.
31 December 2019 was the night he lost everything. He barely escaped with his life that night, he watched the place he had called home for 25 years burn to the ground.
Every day since he has worked incredibly hard to pick up the pieces, trying to get his life back to normal, but the journey has been a tough one.
Like so many bushfire survivors who were living self-sufficiently at the time, Matt was faced with the enormous challenge of rebuilding the infrastructure needed for the basics most of us take for granted - water, electricity, food, shelter.
He moved into a small caravan already located on his property. With the money provided by Red Cross, made possible by the generous donations of thousands of people across Australia and around the world, he bought what he needed.
A tractor to clear land when it was time to rebuild, tools and hardware, water tanks so he could shower and have clean water to drink, a generator and solar panels for electricity, a lawnmower, food for himself and his pets, fuel, a barbeque so he could cook, a freezer, a washing machine, plates, knives and forks so he could eat.
Things were slowly improving, then in March, COVID-19 hit and everything came to a standstill. The delivery of essentials such as water for the tanks, showers, and toilets became impossible, and the removal of debris was delayed.
For most of this year Matt has had to live amongst the rubble that was once his home, in the midst of the destruction the fire left in its wake.
During that time he became increasingly depressed, at the mercy of a global pandemic he was unable to rebuild his life. He was stuck. Some days he couldn’t even bring himself to leave his caravan.
Matt says there have been many times this year where it all felt impossible. But in September things began to slowly improve, he was finally able to get water and a shower delivered, which helped him with his day to day living.
The one thing through it all that kept him going was your donations. The financial support he received from Red Cross grants - $60,000 in total – allowed him to not only get the essentials he needed to survive, but have also helped him plan for the future.
“I’m still in survival mode, every day is a battle, but I just focus on the next thing. Red Cross is the only thing that has kept us all going. If I didn’t have Red Cross money, I probably wouldn’t be alive.
"That money helped a great deal…I went out a bought a heap of stuff to rebuild," says Matt. He even has plans to buy a house with the money he has received. "I’ve saved enough to buy this little house, a little fixer upper, and I wouldn’t mind going on a holiday, that’s for sure.”