A story from Cooma in NSW, reflecting life in August 2020
Right around the country, there are examples of communities doing extraordinary things to help each other recover from the Black Summer bushfires.
George Walters is a landholder in Cooma NSW, who established the charity South Coast Rural Relief.
“Straight after the fires had gone through, my first thoughts as a farmer were -what about the livestock?” George said.
Many of the livestock that were not put down due to burns or poor health now faced the challenges of having no feed or water.
George was able to donate $50,000 of his own hay initially and then went on the search to help further.
The charity worked with local farmers, businesses and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to get urgent hay delivered to livestock across southern NSW.
In addition to the local support that George was able to muster, the team at South Coast Rural Relief were also able to secure assistance from the Harvey Hay Run, which saw road train full of fodder come all the way over from WA.
There were, however, obstacles to get the fodder through to the properties.
To overcome this, the ADF provided wrap-around support in the form of specialist vehicles and helicopters to get the fodder convoys through areas where there were still active fires.
While this started as a farmer donating his own hay to those impacted down in Cobargo, George soon set up a Facebook page and the support started pouring in from there.
George will be first to admit that he was not aware of all the work required in running a charity or making sure all the charity rules and regulations are followed. But Kathy Kelly, a local accountant, as well as many other people from Cooma and the NSW south coast provided amazing support to George and South Coast Rural Relief.
Once the immediate urgency for fodder support ended, George has turned his time and resources to helping those not only affected by the bushfires but also drought.
This includes helping to set-up Monaro Equestricare on his property at the Home Valley Horse & Adventure Park. George has collaborated with Monaro Family Support Services and Sydney Horse Exchange instructor, Lyndal Yelavich, to help kids and families struggling with the impacts of drought, fire and other challenges through equine therapy.