For those not impacted, the bushfire catastrophe that ravaged communities in January of this year seems an eon away.
But for the people who lived through this emergency, the recovery continues - people like Sarsfield resident Kevin Perry, a grandfather to three girls and State Emergency Service employee of more than 30 years.
Kevin and his wife Greta lost their Sarsfield home, which they had built and lived in for 43 years, on new year’s eve. They also lost sheds, fencing and a boat.
Their home was one of 60 that burned down in the Sarsfield area.
“My son was one year old when we moved in. You can imagine the devastation for him, because that was his home, and also his wife for 13 or 14 years had been coming there,” Kevin said.
“For my granddaughters, Sarsfield was a fun place. It was one and a quarter acres of climbing trees and cubby houses and building bird boxes.”
While Kevin and Greta are still sorting out their future plans, financial grants received from the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) are helping them to bounce back.
“When it first happens, you are in so much of a daze and it’s difficult to understand what’s going on,” Kevin said.
“To get the money it just allowed me to go and be a little normal for a minute.
“All I had was the clothes I was wearing. My wife had her clothes and toiletries, four photo albums and document folders.”
Kevin and Greta received three grants from GERF to buy food, clothes, accommodation and other essentials. They were among 30 families to receive immediate financial assistance as a result of a Latrobe Health Services donation of $75,000 to GERF in January.
The Latrobe donation supported families living in East Gippsland who lost their homes, as well as others whose houses, sheds, fences and water tanks were damaged.
Latrobe’s donation, announced on 7 January in the midst of the emergency, was one of several measures to support the community and its fund members for a total of close to $250,000
The GERF donation was used to provide immediate financial relief in the aftermath of the emergency, including to families in some of the hardest hit areas, such as Buchan and Mallacoota.
“Thanks to the generous donation from Latrobe Health Services, more than 30 families affected by the recent East Gippsland bushfires have received support,” GERF president John Mitchell said.
“Some of these people lost their entire homes and are now rebuilding their lives.
“Many others had their principal place of residence impacted by the fires with sheds, fences and water tanks burned.
“The funds enabled people to buy new clothes, food and, in some cases, accommodation.”
Latrobe chief executive officer Ian Whitehead said he was proud of Latrobe’s contribution to the rebuilding effort.
But he also recognised that impacted communities would need ongoing support.
Latrobe is also supporting members facing hardship as a result of the fires with a premium waiver for up to six months.
And in recognition of the incredible efforts of our fire services, members who have fought fires as either Country Fire Authority (Victoria) or Rural Fire Service (NSW) volunteers can have their premiums waived for one month.
“We ask all our members who have been impacted by this emergency to get in touch and have a chat about how we might be able to help,” Mr Whitehead said.
“We started out in Gippsland, we’re based in Gippsland and many of our members are residents here. We feel strongly that we need to offer a helping hand to those who face hardship at this time.”
The Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund closed its 2020 Bushfire Appeal on Wednesday 25 March having raised $10.4 million for Gippsland’s bushfire impacted communities.