Recovery

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Kempsey Shire Council's Bushfire Recovery page is here to support our community recover from the recent bushfires. If you have been affected, there are a range of assistance measures available to support you.

Kempsey Shire Council's Recovery page is here to support our community in its ongoing recovery from the 2019 drought and bushfires. If you have been affected, there are a range of assistance measures available to support you.

Through our dedicated Recovery Team we are working in partnership with the emergency services, State and Federal government agencies, charities and others to deliver this assistance.

To contact Council's Recovery Team call 6566 3200 during office hours.

NSW Bushfire Customer Care Service

For people impacted by bushfire, the NSW Bushfire Customer Care Service will help you navigate the support and financial assistance that's available across all levels of government. Call 13 77 88 or visit www.service.nsw.gov.au to access bushfire recovery information and locations of Service NSW, and Mobile Service Centres.


Kempsey Shire Council's Recovery page is here to support our community in its ongoing recovery from the 2019 drought and bushfires. If you have been affected, there are a range of assistance measures available to support you.

Through our dedicated Recovery Team we are working in partnership with the emergency services, State and Federal government agencies, charities and others to deliver this assistance.

To contact Council's Recovery Team call 6566 3200 during office hours.

NSW Bushfire Customer Care Service

For people impacted by bushfire, the NSW Bushfire Customer Care Service will help you navigate the support and financial assistance that's available across all levels of government. Call 13 77 88 or visit www.service.nsw.gov.au to access bushfire recovery information and locations of Service NSW, and Mobile Service Centres.


  • We want your photos!

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    28 September, 2020
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    Council are calling for the community to send in their photos of the bushfires and our recovery for Black Summer and Beyond - an exhibition of images from the Macleay being held across the shire to commemorate the one year anniversary of the 2019 fires.

    Let your photos tell our story

    If as the saying goes, a picture only tells a thousand words, then we are going to need a lot of them.

    It is hard to imagine that it has almost been a year since the bushfires swept through so much of our shire. The journey that we have been on since that time, both as a community and as individuals, needs and deserves to be shared and recorded.

    That is why Council want your photos of the last twelve months.

    The exhibition

    The best photos will be selected to create an exhibition of images that tell the story of the fires and our recovery. The exhibition will be entitled ‘lack Summer and Beyond - an exhibition of images from the Macleay and your photos will be mounted and put on display in a traveling exhibition that everyone in the shire will have an opportunity to see.

    And there will be prizes for Best Photo and People's Choice! So please send us your photos.

    What photos should I submit?

    Any that speak to you of the last year of disaster and recovery. Perhaps in those darkest days you took a shot with your phone of the fires, the smoke, or the many, many heroes who stepped up from our community. Or maybe you snapped a photo of our beautiful natural environment in the immediate aftermath or as it has returned to its stunning green best.

    And of course we want just as many photos of our community responding over the last year as we have rebuilt and resumed life in this great shire.

    How do I submit photos?

    If you have any photos at all and would like to submit them for the exhibition, please send them to blacksummer@kempsey.nsw.gov.au or for more information call our Recovery team on 6566 3200.

    By submitting your photos, you warrant that you have the right to publish the images and licence Council to use these images for the purposes of creating a public exhibition and in future communications.

    Entries Close 28 October 2020

  • BlazeAid Civic Reception

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    24 September, 2020
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    "When you do a fence, you are not only repairing a fence, you are repairing someone’s soul."

    These were the words that one BlazeAid volunteer used to describe the work they have been doing in the Upper Macleay.

    As such, it was fitting that on Wednesday Kempsey Shire Council held a Civic Reception to thank the BlazeAid volunteers at the Garden Bar at Frederickton.

    It has been 10 months since BlazeAid began rebuilding fences across the Kempsey Shire. Since then 279 farmers have registered in the program, with BlazeAid completing 254 projects on properties thanks to 265 volunteers.

    BlazeAid volunteers have rebuilt 127.3km of fencing in the Macleay Valley and have cleared 95.3km of fencing in 3881 volunteer days.

    Eric Boyce, who along with his wife Denise has been part of the program since 2 December, said it was rewarding to see the change in farmers' outlooks.

    “To see the country change from all the adversity it’s been through from drought to fire and then to see the difference BlazeAid volunteers have made is rewarding,” Eric said.

  • Bellbrook cabins

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    17 September, 2020
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    Overlooking the idyllic banks of the Macleay River sit the Bellbrook Cabins.

    From this position there is nothing but green lush mountains as far as the eye can see and crystal clear flowing waters below.

    It’s a far cry from the burnt landscape just 10 months ago.

    “You could see the fire come across the ridge behind Bellbrook and head to Willawarrin,” said David Wilcock who runs the cabins with his partner Michelle Armson.

    That night they were told to gather at Bellbrook school as they were ‘in real danger’ where they were fed and looked after.

    The next day they made the ‘terrifying’ journey down to Kempsey with police escort as the fire lapped the side of the road.

    “All the scrub on the side of the road was on fire,” he said.

    They then spent 10 days at Kempsey Showground before they were allowed back home.

    “We will never forget the kindness we were shown,” he said.

    “It was trying but everyone was so welcoming.”

    When they went home they were met with a resilient community where strangers and neighbours helped those in need.

    They did everything from feeding the animals to bringing fodder for cattle and there was even a band of helpers working around the block to cook meals for the Bellbrook Rural Fire Bridge.

    “We really saw the best of the community, who rallied around each other,” he said.

    The couple want to send a message of thanks to the community they have been part of for seven years having owned the cabins for more than three and previously managed the general store.

    They also want those in the region to know that they are open for business and have a COVID-19 safety plan in place.

    “There is nothing better than sitting on the verandah of the cabins watching a sunset over the mighty Macleay,” Mr Wilcock said.

    “This is our backyard and we are so fortunate to be able to look at this every day of the week.”

  • Bellbrook is open for business

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    Bellbrook publican Shirley Smart has seen it all from drought to bushfires and now coronavirus.

    But while she has seen the worst of Mother Nature, Shirley has also seen the “absolute best” from the community she has called home for three years.

    “We had been through cyclones living in Western Australia but we had never been through fires,” Shirley said.

    “To see a fire come over the hill, we didn’t know what to do at first. But everyone rallied and worked together to get through it and we couldn’t have done it without the help of so many people.”

    When residents in the township of Bellbrook and its surrounds were evacuated to the local school as bushfires threatened homes and properties last year, Shirley knew they were going to be without power for some time.

    So Shirley and her husband Daryl cleaned out the kitchen and took everything perishable up to Bellbrook Public School to feed the community.

    “We fed everyone that night and the next morning for breakfast and didn’t charge anyone anything, it’s not something you do,” Shirley said.

    “But some weeks later people started walking into the pub handing us money.

    “They were saying ‘I don’t know if you remember us but we were at the school when we evacuated and you fed us breakfast, we would like to give you something’.

    “I told them ‘no’ and that I didn’t want their money as we were just doing our bit to help out but they walked out and left the money on the counter.

    “It was amazing, I had never seen anything like that before…I didn’t know what to say.”

    The pub was without power for three weeks but during that time they set up generators with the help of Kempsey Shire Council and became a one-stop shop with information and donated food for people who had lost their homes or could not get to Kempsey due to road closures.

    “Council staff arrived with truckloads of food, water and clothing for people, the generosity was overwhelming,” Shirley said.

    Now as people recover, she said the bushfires had “actually brought the community together”.

    “The lay out of the place is that everyone is so far away from each other, I met people I didn’t know existed,” she said.

    “Yes, there are still people suffering out there but it has also made people stronger.”

    Shirley also wanted to let the broader Macleay Valley know that the pub, general store and post office were open for business with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

    “We came here three years ago in September from Broome,” Shirley said.

    “I always wanted to own a country pub and when we finished with trucks in Broome, my husband said ‘go find that little country pub you have always wanted’.

    “Our first year was great, then drought and bushfires hit us hard and now COVID-19 but with everything that has happened we want to keep the doors open of this old girl.

    “We would love to have 200 people here and sit around the fire like old times but at the moment we have to adhere to health restrictions due to the pandemic.

    “Just bear with us, we love it here, this is our community. We have fought for it in the fires so we want to fight for it now.”

  • Helping to lead her community

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    17 September, 2020
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    As the school principal of a small community Allison Mitchell wears many hats.

    She is involved in church, helps with every community event including Anzac Day and is the first person to call when someone’s cattle has got out onto the road.

    “Being a principal you have to multitask,” Allison said.

    And when fire roared over the mountain towards the town of Bellbrook, Allison’s first instinct was to help protect her community.

    “It was a full on day, it started at 2.30pm when we got the first phone call that students who live further up river had to go home as the fire was coming down to Bellbrook from Comara,” Allison said.

    “As I was leaving school I saw a few cars go around the corner and I asked them where they were going as there was a fire over that way and they told me they had to let cattle out.

    “I said to them well give me your children, don’t take them over there.”

    That’s when Allison started collecting children while their parents dealt with livestock and gathered their belongings.

    Though her family was stuck in Kempsey, she was not focused on her own property at Nulla creek but the safety of those in her community.

    The weather then turned to the worse. By 8pm, there were 70 people camped at the school - and at the peak of capacity there were 150.

    They were on the front path, in the school buildings, on the other side of the road and in the spare paddock.

    “We had people everywhere, all through the school and we had them out the front as the fire was coming from the mountain behind us,” Allison said.

    Around 10.30pm everyone moved inside as the fire edged closer pushing the embers to fall within the school limits.

    “We put as many people as we could inside, we had cats, dogs, birds, you name it,” she said.

    “We had some hairy moments.”

    Without power and telecommunications, they used word of mouth to get food to the school.

    “We had no food, we are a small school of 28 with no canteen,” she said.

    “So we went through freezers to see what we could feed people for tea.

    “Locals also went through their freezers and Shirley (Smart) from Bellbrook pub also brought up food.”

    At 11.30pm the fire had “cracked the hill” behind the school and roared down the mountain to the river flats on the opposite side of Bellbrook.

    The river was so dry that there were fears it would jump across and head towards the town.

    Just 30 minutes later the first fire brigade made it through the road from Willawarrin that was alight with fire.

    And then the fire changed direction. The next day everyone went to Bellbrook Pub for breakfast before they were eventually evacuated to Kempsey after a couple of attempts due to the road being blocked by fires.

    “It was like a ghost town here for a couple of weeks,” she said.

    Meanwhile the fire burned around 80 per cent of her property at Nulla Creek. Fortunately, their house was saved.

    “There was a ring that stayed green around our place and a few neighbours,” she said.

    But Allison said that was just round one of the fires that burned for a couple of months in the region.

    The school was returning back to town from swimming one Friday afternoon in December when they came down the mountain and saw a flame on the hill.

    Jodi Wade called it in immediately.

    “When we got to school the fire was coming over the mountain and I got a call that there were 20 odd head of cattle on the road,” she said.

    “Being a principal you multitask so I went to get them back in and when I looked back up the valley from where we came there was an absolute fireball heading towards us.

    “I sent a video to my boss and said we were leaving.

    “I have never evacuated the school in 30 years but we were going and we had everyone gone in 30 minutes.”

    She went home to Nulla to save their place but ended up at Slim Dusty’s home and worked hard to battle the fire that surrounded it.

    “That was the worse fire for us,” she said.

    “One whole end of Nulla burned and friends lost their houses.”

    Despite the loss and what they endured in those couple of months, she said the community had ‘bounced back well’ and the children were so resilient.

    “It is a very different place, the ground is not as dry and we don’t have the drought breaking us,” she said.

    “It will be different heading into this bushfire season as people are more aware and families are prepared having cleaned up their backyards.”

  • Creative Kids needed for art project

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    Parents of the Upper Macleay we need your kids and their creativity!

    No matter if they're a budding Pro Hart or still tempted to try and chew on their paint brushes, they are all artists and welcome at our art project fun day.

    As part of our reflection on the past year, we’re hosting a kids art day on Wednesday 30 September at Willawarrin Hall to make a public art work to reflect our inspiring community.

    Creative facilitators will be on hand to step kids through a variety of activities that will result in the public art project - as well as keeping the whole event safe and fun.

    The day is split up by age groups, with a joint free lunch in the middle for every kid attending.

    Timings Wednesday 30 September

    10am-midday - pre and primary school aged artists
    painting, craft, games

    Midday-1pm - hot dog and icy pole

    1pm-3pm - high school aged artists
    Creative workshops, painting, photography

    We are encouraging people to register your kids to attend to help with planning supervision and materials.

    Please note all children must be accompanied by an adult - coffee and tea supplied.

    Click here to register your budding artists and we'll see you there!

  • Join a free Tree Planting for Success workshop

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    Council are offering free places in two Tree Planting for Success classes as part of the Strength, Support and Community events.

    Strength, Support and Community is a program of free resilience focused events being run by Council’s dedicated Recovery unit.

    If you would like to improve the success rate of your tree plantings, or just know how to start, this workshop is for you.

    Run in partnership with the Macleay Landcare Network, you will learn all about the steps to successfully establish tree plantings on your property, selecting the rights species for your property and intended purpose, through to planting and maintenance of the trees.

    There are two classes and you only need to attend one:

    • Tuesday 22 September, 5-7pm, at Willawarrin Hall; or
    • Friday 25 September, 10am-Midday, which will be held on a property

    Each household is entitled to $150.00 worth of free trees upon completion of the workshop.

    If you would like to attend the Tree Planting for Success workshop or one of the other events – from yoga and boot camps to CPR and cooking classes . To register click here and go to item number 12 or call the Recovery Hub on 6566 3200.

  • Willawarrin community proactive in planning for bushfire season

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    Margueritte and Eddie Flower had only lived in Willawarrin for a year when the devastating bushfires of 2019 struck their property.

    The resilient couple recently met with locals, RFS captains and council staff at the Willawarrin RFS Shed on Saturday August 29 to formulate their Bushfire Survival Plans ahead of this year’s fire season. The event was the third in a series of eight Get Ready programs to be held over the next two months in Willawarrin and Bellbrook.

    “When the fires hit, we were quite confused because we’d come from suburban Melbourne and weren’t familiar with all the roads out here,” Margueritte said. “I happened to be in South West Rocks on the day the fires got really bad, but Eddie stayed behind because he had a bad feeling.”

    Eddie remained at the property until 4pm that day before heading to South West Rocks with the couple’s animals. When he tried to return home later that day, the roads were closed.

    “As far as we heard on social media, our house was burnt to the ground,” Eddie recalled. “We were sitting there saying, ‘Glad we moved up here - everything’s gone!’”

    Fortunately, the Flowers returned to Willawarrin to find their home still intact. They are now immersed in preparing for the upcoming fire season.

    “We’ve cleared a lot of trees around the house, bought in new hoses and I’ve joined the RFS as a volunteer,” Eddie said. “We’re here discussing how to plan, asking for advice and basically doing everything we can to get ready.”

    “If anything, the way that everybody pulled together through the fires just made me fall in love with this community,” Margueritte added. “We haven’t once regretted moving here.”

    The couple were joined by friends and neighbours at the relaxed event, where residents had a chance to share their stories and connect with each other over tea and lamingtons.

    Willawarrin rural fire brigade captain Paul Younie said that one of his biggest concerns was the worry felt by the community in the wake of last year’s shocking bushfires.

    “We don’t need fires as bad as last year to increase the levels of anxiety in the community,” Paul said. “We had strong winds and a bit of smoke at Bellbrook last week and were inundated with calls. Those conditions often set off people’s anxiety.”

    According to Paul, having a comprehensive fire plan in place is one of the best ways for residents to minimise anxiety.

    “Recovery from the fires is ongoing,” he explained. “It could extend from two to five years or even more. We need to be especially mindful of people’s mental health coming into this bushfire season.”

    Representatives from St Vincent de Paul and the Red Cross also attended the Willawarrin event, advising residents on how to access grants and assistance to take care of themselves and reconnect with neighbours after the isolation imposed by the Covid 19 lock down.

    St Vincent de Paul Community Development Bushfire Recovery worker Sarah Mason expressed concern over the number of Macleay residents who have not accessed any assistance or who are only just beginning to access the help and funds available to them.

    “There are a few reasons why people don’t ask for help,” Sarah said. “A lot of people feel as though others are worse off than them, while many more don’t know what is available.

    “Another factor is that these are exceptionally resilient communities where a lot of people just go ahead and get things done themselves. There are people fixing fences out of their own pockets. My job is to reach out to these residents and encourage them to accept the help that is being offered.”

    Additional planning events will be held in Willawarrin on October 21 & 24 and in Bellbrook on October 3 & 6.

    All residents of Willawarrin and Bellbrook are encouraged to come along and chat with RFS captains, ask questions, connect with neighbours and get a fire plan in place.

  • Willawarrin residents get their bushfire plans together

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    Local RFS captains joined council staff at the Willawarrin RFS Shed on Saturday August 29 to assist residents in completing Bushfire Survival Plans. In a relaxed atmosphere, residents discussed their concerns with the RFS and shared stories over morning tea as they filled out Bushfire Survival Plans to take home. Representatives from St Vincent de Paul and the Red Cross were also on hand to provide advice on potential grant prospects and opportunities for further assistance.

    Another Bushfire Survival Planning event will be held at the Willawarrin RFS shed this Wednesday September 2.

  • Join a free financial planning session and lunch

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    18 August, 2020
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    This Thursday, 20 August as part of Council's Strength, Support and Community Recovery Program, a lunch and financial planning session will be held at the Willawarrin Hall from 11am.

    Tania from Coastal Wealth Directions (pictured) will share budgeting tips, information about maximising your superannuation and planning tools to help you get your money matters in order.

    Kel from Fresh Meals Made Healthy will also teach you how to prepare a delicious and easy meal which participants will enjoy for lunch.

    Register for this FREE event and secure your spot by going to: