Kim’s family lost everything during the 3 January bushfires that ravaged Kangaroo Island. But from the wreckage comes a new start and a much-needed financial buffer.
Craig was at home with the children - 14-year-old Alana, 10-year-old Katy and seven-year-old Adam* - when the message came through.
‘It’s too late to leave. Take shelter now.’ it read.
“The wind was blowing so hard you could barely stand in it. So I said, kids, we need to get going now,” Craig recalls.
They were only three kilometres from the highway so he knew they had a good chance of getting somewhere safe. He wasn’t going to risk staying, not with that wind, not surrounded by that massive plantation.
So Craig bundled the kids into the car along with the pet dog and cockatoos and hurtled down the road as fast as he could.
It was a decision that ultimately saved their lives.
“I got around the corner and I saw a huge plume of smoke,” says Craig.
Ten minutes later their home and everything surrounding it was gone.
Kim was at work that day, as she was every day. Working two jobs to support her family. They had a feeling that the fires may come their way, but they thought – given the weather – if they did come, it would be late, probably around four o’clock. Plenty of time for Craig and the kids to pack up and leave if needed.
It was just past two o’clock when Kim got the call from Craig, telling her that they had managed to escape the fires.
“When they rang me and said they had gotten out, I was glad. I don’t care about anything else, my family is the most important thing. It was the best news ever,” says Kim.
The family spent the next few weeks moving from house to house, first to their sister-in-law’s, then to a friend’s holiday house – where they were evacuated again due to fires – then back again to their sister in-law’s.
Despite the enormous hardship and loss they have endured, Kim feels that the community of Kangaroo Island has helped the family enormously. It was through a local community member that she found out about Red Cross’ emergency grant.
“At first I was like ‘Oh I don’t really need that, people are worse off than me’ but then I looked at my kids and I’m like ‘No, I’ve got to swallow my pride and I’ve got to do this.”
The grant from Red Cross - made possible by the generosity of thousands of people here in Australia and around the world - allowed Kim and Craig to secure a lease on a new home for the family. It also gave them a much needed financial buffer, as the fires not only destroyed their home and all their belongings, but also burnt down one of Kim’s places of work – meaning she now only has one part-time job to support her family on.
“I’ve never been one who’s had money. Every time you think you save it, it just goes on bills and food. When you’ve got three kids it is just really hard. So having that extra money has taken a lot of pressure off,” says Kim.
Five weeks on from the fires that irrevocably changed their lives, Kim, Craig and the kids are doing well. The children are back at school, the Kangaroo Island community is continuing to band together, and Kim is looking forward to the future.