Red Cross volunteer Janet and Matt outside Bairnsdale relief centre, Victoria during the bushfire emergency in January 2020. Janet provided essential psychosocial support to Matt when he came into the centre very distressed after he lost his home to the fires on Dec 31st 2019.
Two weeks on from the fire that destroyed his home, Matt is only just beginning on the long road to recovery, “I’m numb. Numb from the house burning down, just – I don’t know. No emotions really,” says Matt.
Despite this, he is already planning what he will need to rebuild.
“The (Red Cross) money is going to help me. I need a fridge, probably a 200-300 amp-hour battery, a couple of fold-out solar panels just to get started. And then that way, once I’ve got the fridge I can at least get food then, borrow a tent off someone and start from scratch again,” says Matt.
The Club Terrace that Matt has known for the past ten years is all but gone. Only four or five houses remain. Everything is black, burnt. The enormous cacophony of gum trees that once stood, towering over everything are now nothing more than burnt sticks, protruding from the ground, raised like scar tissue, scattered across the landscape. The ground is completely covered in three-inch-deep black soot. Matt says it’s like walking on powdered snow.
“I’ve got to start again…but Red Cross hooked me up with everything. I didn’t know what to do until I came here (to the relief centre) but then the Red Cross grabbed me, put me under their wing and away I went,” says Matt.