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REBUILD OUR TOWNS: Random acts of kindness have given Sunshine Coast survivor the strength to rebuild

''Hardship makes you stronger.''
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It took just under an hour for a freak 70-metre firewall to mercilessly destroy a lifetime of precious memories. It was September 9 – when the bushfires started to rage across the nation – a day that Peregian Beach resident Pam Murphy will never forget.

When flames licked the doorstep of her family home of 40 years, it was just moments later that the full force of the blaze blitzed through her home.

“We were in the direct firing line – one minute there was nothing, and seconds later flames were leaping from my garden. It was terrifying,” 90-year-old artist Pam tells Woman’s Day.

With the help of neighbours, Pam grabbed a bag of important paperwork and a few worldly possessions, and with all the strength she could muster, ran to rescue the two things she treasures the most – her precious 12-year-old Burmese twin cats Daisy and Ellie.

“Ellie got in the travel carrier, but Daisy was so terrified she took off back into the house.

I went after her, but I had no chance,” she says. “By the time we got to the Noosa evacuation centre, I was numb. I saw on TV the aerial shots over Peregian and recognised the houses either side of mine – and in the middle, the home I lovingly built with my late husband Russell was gutted.”

A policeman dug through the rubble to find Pam’s missing necklace.

Trying to put on a brave face, there was no hiding the despair of losing one of her precious cats. She prayed for a miracle, and it wasn’t long before her prayers were answered.

“A few weeks later I was cleaning up and I heard a faint ‘meow’ – my beloved Daisy was alive!” says Pam. “She was cowering under the deck next door and miraculously she survived. I’ve had the girls since they were kittens and now we’re back together.”

Thankfully, Pam is fully insured so she can rebuild. In the meantime kind neighbours have taken her in while she’s getting back on her feet.

“I lived through the Depression and World War II and have survived on rations,” she says.

“I inherited an indomitable spirit that got me this far in life, and I plan to be around for a while yet.

“Hardship makes you stronger – I lost my beloved Russell after 55 years of marriage back in 2005, and we had two beautiful children, Angela, who is 58 and is my rock, and our precious son John, who died of cancer five years ago, aged 56… that puts things in perspective.

A house can be replaced, besides I’d planned to have a big clean-out – I don’t have to worry now!”

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And her positivity and true blue Aussie resilience is primarily thanks to the kindness of the community. In the rush to evacuate, Pam left behind a precious gold chain Russell had given her years before.

“A policeman dug through the ash when he heard it was missing and he found it! A local jeweller, John Bird, and his wife Laura restored it back to life and also gifted me a new watch.”

But it was a random act of kindness from one little girl, six-year-old Edee Allsopp, that touched Pam’s heart the most.

“She wrote a card and gave me $50 to buy something nice to make the sad go away – such a little dear,” says Pam.

“I’ll be dedicating a special wall for Class 1C from Tewantin primary school, who each painted their own interpretation of how they see my new house looking – they’re adorable!

“After nine decades of living a good honest life, I can safely say the world is in very good hands,” Pam says with a smile.’

How you can help Peregian Beach, Noosa Shire

•Get behind the Team Noosa Bushfire Appeal. Noosa’s tourism operators have come together and are providing holiday packages to NSW Rural Fire Service, Victorian Country Fire Authority, South Australian Country Fire Service and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. The Noosa community wants our firefighting heroes, who put their lives on the line for their communities, to know how much they love and support them. They hope they can bring some much-needed joy back into those regional communities who suffered the worst bushfires in history. Already 100 businesses have donated packages worth more than $200,000, and cash donations will go towards airfares. The packages will be distributed to firefighters, displaced families, or will be used in raffles for further fundraising. visitnoosa.com.au/team-noosa-bushfire-appeal

•When it comes to local pubs, it doesn’t get any better than a visit to the Peregian Beach Hotel at 221-229 David Low Way, Peregian Beach. (07) 5448 3111, peregianbeachhotel.com.au

•Visit the fabulous Peregian Beach Markets at Kingfisher Park on the first and third Sunday of every month from 7am to 12.30pm. There’s a variety of arts and crafts, organic and homegrown produce on offer. Have lunch at any one of the amazing eateries in nearby Peregian Village. visitsunshinecoast.com/Peregian-Beach-Village

•Noosa’s world-famous Hastings Street is where you’ll find managers Rio and Amanda Capurso’s Locale Ristorante Bar. Located at 62 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads, it’s one of the region’s best eateries! (07) 5447 5111, localenoosa.com.au

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.

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