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Kempsey on the road to recovery


A story from Kempsey in NSW, reflecting life in August 2020

“It’s all about increasing preparedness and social connections,” said Jo McGoldrick, the Recovery Coordinator at Kempsey Shire Council.

Jo is talking about a Council program called ‘Strength, support and community’.

“It is a program of practical workshops, information sessions, and wellness activities that have been designed to build resilience and preparedness while getting to know our neighbours,” said Jo. “There are almost 90 free activities for locals to join in over three months.”

In late 2019, Kempsey Shire on the mid north coast of NSW, was severely impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. Around half of the Shire burnt, and more than 340 houses, outbuildings and facilities were damaged or destroyed by the fires.

More than 180,000 hectares of land was scorched - much of it private property – and this has had a profound and severe impact on key industries including farming and forestry.

The Kempsey Shire Council with help from the Australian and NSW governments has been at the forefront of recovery efforts.

“The Council has made improvements to existing public facilities, built new infrastructure, and created ongoing support services for bushfire affected communities,” said Craig Milburn, General Manager, Kempsey Shire Council. 

To help the most severely bushfire-impacted Local Government Areas (LGAs) to quickly rebuild vital infrastructure and strengthen community resilience following the bushfires, the Australian Government provided payments to local councils under the LGA Grants Program. Kempsey has received $1.416 million under this program.

Part of this funding has been used to upgrade the Willawarrin Hall which has now reopened its doors after much needed renovations.

“The hall really is at the heart of the community, it was the one-stop shop during the bushfires where people could come and get help, food parcels and clothes or a cup of tea,” said Maudie Reid, the Hall’s treasurer and librarian.

The Council is also using the Australian Government funding to run a one-off Bushfire Recovery Community Grants Program. Funding will be provided to community-led activities that support recovery and build community connections. 

Projects and events developed by the community that support the initiatives in the overall Recovery Action Plan will be awarded grants up to $30,000. 

Support from Resilience NSW has helped the Kempsey Shire Council to establish a recovery hub that brings multiple service providers all under one roof, ensuring those in need are always able to find the right answer.