Communities share journey of fire recovery

Kangaroo Island, Pinery farmers share insight into rebuilding after fire

Life & Style
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Two communities - each touched by devastating fires - have come together to share stories of rebuilding and recovery.

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TWO communities - each touched by devastating fires - have come together to share stories of rebuilding and recovery.

Kangaroo Island farmers impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires had the chance to meet with fellow landholders, five years after they were hit by the Pinery fire.

Organised through Rural Business Support, the three-day tour brought 25 farmers to the Barossa Valley and Lower North to learn more about the path forward after a major fire.

RBS chief executive officer Brett Smith said it was important to have the space to continue this support one-year on from the KI fires.

He said a lot of support in similar situations came in the first three or six months, but could go a little quieter by the time 12 months had passed.

"KI farmers have spent the past 12 months dealing with all sorts of things - and they're still dealing with them," he said.

He said part of the benefit of the tour, which involved farmers speaking with farmers in similar circumstances, was for people still at the 12-month mark to see what could be achieved by the five-year mark.

"They can see the path forward as exemplified by the other community," he said.

Brett said the event was designed to be a tour of hope for the KI farmers, while providing a much-needed wellbeing break away from the island and its physical fire reminders.

"Even though everyone lives on KI, everyone has been so busy they probably haven't had time to stop and talk and this gave them the opportunity," he said.

But he said there were also more practical lessons to be learned.

"Part of what we saw at Pinery is that you don't have to do things exactly the way you did before - you can put the shed in a different spot or the fencelines, and you can think about these things moving forward," he said.

Agriculture KI chair Rick Morris, who was among the tour participants, said there was good interest and uptake in the tour, including from a range of age groups.

"It was amazing the effort and planning that went into it," he said.

Rick said one of his biggest lessons came from looking at the way different people had approached rebuilding houses, down to landscapes and plant selection.

"It's impressive to see that level of detail," he said.

Rick said it could be easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day clean-up and rebuilding, but this was a chance for some "big picture thinking".

Included in the tour was a visit to the Moquet Lee Pinery Fire Memorial at Grace Plains, where Pinery farmers and Moquet Lee Custodians Derek Tiller and Peter March shared how the memorial was installed "to remember and recognise the importance of the fires on the community in a factual and respectful way, and to pay respect to lives lost".

Rick said there was a lot of interest in the Pinery fire memorial, with some considering a similar option on KI.

But a major goal of the tour was "farmers helping farmers", with visits to a number of fire-affected properties in the Pinery area, including Troy and Nette Fischer, Wasleys, where the couple shared how they have rebuilt their Ashmore White Suffolks business with "grit, stubbornness and realistic goals".

"After year one, it's still consuming your life - you think about it every day," Nette said.

"After year two, it is not such a big consuming part of your life.

"At the end of year five, it is now a part of our life story. You feel proud. We did it. And we're still writing the script."

RELATED:Pinery fire memorial launched on fourth anniversary

RBS opens office to assist KI fire recovery

The trip was made possible with a Bushfire Assistance Grant of more than $35,000 from the BankSA Foundation.

There was also support from a number of organisations including AgKI, the Agricultural Bureau of SA, PIRSA's Family and Business Mentors and Grain Producers SA.

Rick said the tour was a great chance to meet with the Pinery residents, even with some tougher moments for everyone.

"They're obviously pretty passionate about their community, as we are about ours, and we've come home enthused," he said.

"Obviously it brought up some memories that probably needed to be brought up.

"It's good to see a community a few years down the track - it never goes away but I guess as time goes on, it gets a bit easier."

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