Local News

REBUILD OUR TOWNS: Thanks to an army of angels, this bushfire affected family are hopeful once more

''We couldn't do it without you''

By Lizzie Wilson
When a group of 100 fence-fixers landed by barge onto South Australia's fire- ravaged Kangaroo Island three weeks ago, their arrival brought much-needed relief to the island's 5000-plus residents.
Trapped on the island as the ferocious flames posed a deadly threat to their lives and homesteads, the locals thought they'd hit rock bottom. But during such dark and desperate times there are such things as angels – and they go by the name of The BlazeAid Army.
These golden-hearted Aussies are helping our farmers get back on their feet and repair fences destroyed by the bushfires.
The army – whose members are made up of hundreds of volunteers from all over the world – are the selfless heroes helping to rebuild Australia back to its former glory. And local farmer and mum-of-three Jenny Stanton can't imagine life without them.
"They're amazing! They arrive like the cavalry, with smiles on their faces and a work ethic to be proud of," Jenny, 36, tells Woman's Day from her family property Dalmore, which is nestled in the Stokes Bay region on the island's north coast.
"My husband Will's family has been here for over 70 years working the land, and are leaders in the field of merino sheep breeding. We're four generations, and we farm as a family," she adds.
The Stantons are so thankful to their "fence fairies" for helping them rebuild. Image: Pete Nash photography - Kangaroo Island
"We lost three of our properties but our home was spared – Will's brother Michael was on the CFS truck that day. One moment the fire was 70km away, the next he was on the phone screaming to get out. We grabbed our girls [Grace, seven, Annabelle, five, and one-year-old Matilda] and our dog Boysie and evacuated to Kingscote."
Michael fought the fires while his wife Sarah and their three kids got to a safe place. The family's patriarch Dean, who is 98, and his wife Mamie, are grateful the Stanton boys fought hard to save their home.
"Nothing can prepare you for the shock when you return – it's gut-wrenching," says Jenny, struggling to put on a brave face.
"Every small gesture adds to a better outcome in the end," says BlazeAid member Ann. Image: Pete Nash photography - Kangaroo Island
As well as the loss of property, 4000 of their 7000 sheep along with 60 head of cattle have perished, and almost all their crops, including hectares of rolled oats produced for the domestic market, are gone.
The Kangaroo Island fires destroyed around 210,000 hectares, with most of the farming land on the western side of the island burned. In total, 43,000 livestock are dead, 89 homes destroyed and the loss of wildlife is estimated to be more than one hundred million.
"It's overwhelming, but you've got to start somewhere, and the fences now are our priority. We lost 80km out of the 90km on the three affected farms. That's the distance between Sydney and the Blue Mountains, or Brisbane to the Gold Coast," says Jenny, who is a qualified agronomist. "We need the fences to manage, feed and water animals – we also need to return neighbouring stock back to where they belong. We're determined we will rebuild."
Just a short drive from their property at the local Parndana oval, home to the local Roosters footy team, camp BlazeAid is set up with with dozens of volunteers. United in spirit, they are staying in caravans, camper trailers, tents and swags, and are all in it for the long haul.
Camp coordinators Greg and Ann Stevens, who hail from the NSW mid-north coast, know their small caravan is home for at least the next six months – but they wouldn't have it any other way.
"We've been involved with BlazeAid since 2014 – every small gesture adds to a better outcome in the end," says Ann.At the far end of the oval, army reservists have set up their own base camp, and have hooked up with their mates at BlazeAid to work together.
The devastating Kangaroo Island fires destroyed 210,000 hectares of land. Image: Getty
"We've got people from all walks of life who wanted to lend a hand! The camaraderie is extraordinary. Each day crews go out after brekkie and then they'll roll back into camp. Over dinner [we'll] have a few laughs and tell stories. We're a rare breed, that's for sure," adds Ann.
Jenny is extremely grateful for everyone's help.
"Farmers are proudly independent by nature, and we're always reluctant to accept help, but without BlazeAid, we'd be on our knees," she says.
"My girls and I call them our 'fence fairies' – we will never forget what they have done for our family. They've given us hope, and a reason to wake up every morning – thank you BlazeAid and thank you Australia."

How to help Kangaroo Island

•Help rebuild fences on Kangaroo Island and support BlazeAid. blazeaid.com.au
•Donate to the KI Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund. kangarooisland.sa.gov.au/notice-board/latest-news/ki-mayoral-relief-and-recovery-bushfire-fund
•Support Will and Jenny Stanton – enjoy some of their rolled and quick oats produced before the fires. Order online at kangarooislandoats.com.au/store
•Book a wedding at one of the stunning island venues across the island. venyu.com.au/listing/kangarooislandweddings
•To snap that special occasion, support award-winning South Australian wedding photographer Pete Nash. petenashphotography.com
•Enjoy the best honey money can buy! Clifford's Honey Farm is Dave and Jenny's family-run business in the Haines district of Kangaroo Island. cliffordshoney.com.au
•For a romantic getaway, stay at the luxury Stowaway in Stokes Bay. Ask for Carly (+61 457 742 162), stowawayki.com.au or for a getaway, visit tourkangarooisland.com.au
•Drop by The Rabbit Warren bakery and enjoy the best red velvet cake in South Australia! Say hi to owners Nat and Dave Warner (not the cricketer!). 8 Grenfell Street, Kingscote, (08) 8553 0261
•The bushfires ravaged The Islander Estate Vineyards but its cellar door and wine stocks were protected. 78 Gum Creek Road, Cygnet River. Call (08) 8553 9008 for more info or visit iev.com.au
•Check out the Kingscote gift shop for lots of local and Australian-made goodies and say hello to the owner, Graham, while you're there. facebook.com/kingscotegiftshop

Rebuild our towns

There's not a single Australian who hasn't had their hearts broken by the horrific bushfires that have swept through our country. The road to rebuild will be long but as a nation we will: brick by brick, fence by fence.
Bauer Media launched this campaign to help our neighbours in their time of need.
Each week Bauer's portfolio of magazines (print and digital), led by Woman's Day, will shine a spotlight on a town sharing information with our readers about how they can help, from the best fundraisers to donate to that specifically benefit the locals, to products they can buy from that town or region that support small businesses there.
We'll highlight the farmers who need fencing supplies, the schools which are short of books and pencils, the yoga school that needs mats or how to plan a getaway to the region when the time is right to bolster their local tourism industry.
The Rebuild Our Towns campaign is centred on the fact that practical help doesn't have to cost a fortune.
Our love and thoughts go out to every person, but actions speak louder than words, so join us to make a difference and help our heartland heal.

read more from