Bushfire Recovery May 2009


February 7, 2009 will remain etched in the memory of all Australians for many years to come. Devastating bushfires ravaged large areas of Victoria in and around Kilmore, Kinglake, Marysville, Buxton, and Taggerty in the southern part of District 9790 as well as Myrtleford, Mudgegonga, Beechworth in the northern part.
Members of Rotary Clubs throughout Australia and in particular in District 9790 have been involved from the outset; initially those trained in the emergency services, others in the relief centres. In addition, other clubs with members not directly involved in the fires provided members to raise funds, donate goods or provide general support as needed.
For the 3 days before Saturday 7 February 2009, Victoria experienced temperatures over 40° Celsius (105°F) combined with low humidity. This was also preceded by very dry conditions for many months

On Saturday 7 February, the weather conditions were extreme for bush fires to occur with temperatures of 45 – 50°Celsius (115 – 120°F) and strong, hot North winds, followed by an equally strong Southerly change. The Conditions were perfect for the disaster that was to follow.
For District 9790, the fire affected areas include Kilmore, Kinglake Narbethong, Buxton, Marysville as well as the neighbouring villages, towns and hamlets in the southern fires. In the north, the fires occurred around Myrtleford, Mudgegonga and Beechworth


The Kilmore and Kinglake fire was started by the high winds blowing down power lines that then sparked in the dry grass and fanned by the wind.
The Marysville fire is now reported to have been started by an arsonist(s). This fire joined up with the Kilmore/Kinglake fire because of the wind change.
The Beechworth/Myrtleford fire is thought to have been started by a tree falling over a power line.
Of the Rotary Districts in which the fires occurred on and after February 7, 2009, District 9790 was, by far, the most affected:
  • Homes lost: 1668 out of 2029
  • Known Fatalities: 161 out of 173
  • Area burnt: Approx. 70% of the total
(Figures taken from the Melbourne Age newspaper, Tuesday, March 31, 2009)
Donations have been received from:
  • Rotary Clubs from District 9790  
  • Rotary Clubs from other Districts around Australia
  • Rotary Clubs and Districts from outside Australia
    The Rotary Club of Yuzhno Sakhalinski, Russia
    The Rotary Club of Biysk, Siberia
    The Rotary Club of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
  • Private donations
Individual Clubs have also started their own Relief Funds.
Other clubs, particularly those very close to the fires, have been able to start their own Relief Funds through donations from Rotary Clubs both outside our District and overseas and/or from the individual club activities and events.
Other Districts within Australia have advised that significant funds have been raised for the support of the victims from Districts 9790 and 9820.
The District 9790 Bush Fire Committee is trying to establish “partnerships” between a District and a region affected by the fires. 
For example: District 9650 (Northern NSW) with the Myrtleford/Beechworth area.


Support will come in 3 phases:
  1. The first phase is the emergency response through the CFA, SES, Police and other emergency services including providing support at the staging areas.
  2. The second phase is the immediate support and assistance to those who have suffered particularly at the Relief Centres.
  3. The third phase is the longer term recovery, re-building and re-establishing normality as much as possible.
Rotary’s involvement has been across all three phases. It is in the Second and Third Phases where Rotary can provide the most support and make a significant contribution.
At the moment, it is evident we are moving towards the end of the Second phase, giving support and assistance to those who need it through the Relief Centres as well as the many and varied activities reported by Clubs.
Clubs have carried out a wide variety of activities, often only restricted by the imagination:
  • Many Rotarians have spent countless hours and days working at the various Relief Centres.
  • BBQ, Special events and Benefit Concerts to raise funds and/or as “thank you” functions.
  • Co-ordinating the distribution of hay, food and clothing.
  • Providing vouchers for the supply of goods and services.
  • Purchasing Shelter Boxes or providing Aquaboxes to provide safe drinking water.
  • Organising donations to the Blood Bank.
  • Organising fence repairs.
  • Conducting “tool drives” involving the local community for contributions
  • Site preparation for sheds, caravans and similar temporary accommodation facilities
  • Organising the distribution of “Hussif” bandoleers
  • Donating, transporting and distributing several bins of fruit and vegetables
  • Covering the fuel costs for the distribution of hay, food etc.
  • Assisting with the distribution of undies from an “Undy Mundy”’ appeal
  • Operating stalls at markets
We can continue with the above projects and others because the advice we have received indicates it is still too early to embark on a major project.
  • Assisting with accommodation
  • Assisting with fencing and removal of rubbish
  • Replacing tools and equipment and similar activities
In addition, we can, as Clubs and individuals, visit the affected areas to support local businesses – they want us to come.
In addition, the shed and voucher projects initiated by the Rotary Club of Alexandra has been most successful

CURRENT SITUATION (as at 1st May 2009)

From the information supplied to Clubs and others involved in the rehabilitation process, the current situation can be summarised by:
  • Phase 1 has now passed
  • Phase 2 – Support at the various Relief Centres is now phasing out with many Centres closing and/or amalgamating.
  • Phase 3 – Now starting to identify longer term recovery, re-building and re-establishing projects.
District Governor Peter Gilbert recently advised that the District has achieved Tax Deductibility status for private donations to the Bush Fire Fund.
This however, has now required the formation of two parallel funds to permit the recovery of GST for donations of either cash and/or goods.
The reason for having two funds is:
The “Private” Fund will lose the charitable status from the Taxation Department and the ability to provide tax deductible receipts if donations, other than cash, are made to:
  • Limited liability companies
  • Incorporated companies
  • Family trusts
  • Partnerships
Hence, donations from the “Private” Fund can be made to families and/or individuals.
Unfortunately most of the larger (non-hobby) farmers and businesses that have suffered from the fires come under one or more of the above categories.

A GST refund is not available for donations from the “Private” Fund.
Further, it has become clear that many are facing financial difficulties due to the “bureaucracy” required for the larger Government support.
While the $5,000 support funding has been given without any paperwork, there appears to be a significant level of “form filling” required for the larger amounts.


The joint Victorian/Tasmanian District Governors’ committee has proposed an Application Form to be used when applying for financial support – this can be used by Clubs within a District and/or between Districts.
A copy of the form will be placed on the District 9790 website for use by Clubs and is also attached below as
Addendum 1.
The information required on the form is given on the following pages however, a link will be given in the website to down load as many copies of the forms as required.


So far the District has provided support to the following applications:

Support provided to date:

  Myrtleford (Community Days) $ 2,000.00
  Southern Mitchell (Fencing) $ 3,378.00
  Alexandra (Shed Project) $15,000.00
  Whittlesea (Wallan Relief Centre) $ 9,000.00
  Whittlesea (Whittlesea CFA) $ 3,000.00*
  Mansfield (Music for Children) $ 2,325.00*
  Southern Mitchell (Fencing) $ 2,780.45
    Total Donations $37,493.45
    Note: * Approved but to be paid  

Support has been requested by:

  Myrtleford (vouchers/fencing) $180,000.00+  
  Kinglake Ranges Business Network $ 95,000.00+  
  Strathewen Garden project $ 10,000.00  
  Marysville “Shopping Precinct” $??????????  


The District is committed to give support to the survivors who perhaps have:
  • “Fallen between the cracks” from receiving Government and other agency support
  • Not received any support
  • Received support but it has been inadequate to cover essential needs and requirements.
  • Assist burns victims.
However, we intend to avoid duplication with the Government and other agencies as much as possible.
We also plan to retain some funds for the longer term to support potential larger community projects such as:
  • Assisting schools with equipment not covered by the Government and the parents cannot afford.
  • Re-building or establishing some essential community amenities.
It is important to recognise that the recovery process will take several years.
The information now available indicates the major issues for the survivors currently includes:
  • Fencing – replacement and clean-up
  • Depression
  • Temporary Accommodation
  • General requirements such as farming equipment and tools
  • Stock feed – this appears to be less urgent as farmers are being encouraged be less reliant on donated feed
  • Support for local businesses that were not burnt out but are still struggling to survive
  • Contributing to the rebuilding of “the community” at Marysville by assisting with the development of a community shopping precinct.
  • Contributing to the recovery of the Strathewen community by assisting the purchase of plants to re-establish gardens
  • Support for the Kinglake Ranges Business Network
  • Assistance for farmers to replace fencing, cleaning dams and the purchase of replacement fire fighting equipment for the Myrtleford/Mudgegonga area

The advice from people working in the disaster areas is that the survivors are just beginning to understand their losses. In some cases, areas have just opened up to non-residents.

In addition, the consequences of the fires and the devastation now has considerably less emphasis in the press as well as the support organisations are appearing to be moving on with most relief centres either closing or being amalgamated

Consequently, we are now just beginning to receive requests to support major projects in the areas most severely affected by the fires.


We are also investigating the possibility of developing partnerships between a particular area devastated by the fires and another District who has funds available to support and assist in the recovery process. Members from the external District can then follow the application of their funds and if desired, participate in any element of the recovery project.
For example:
  • The Myrtleford/Mudgegonga area has a need for clearing of destroyed fencing and installation of replacement fences.
  • Cleaning of dams in which recent rains have washed ash, soot and other debris into the water making it unusable by stock.
  • The purchase of a slip-on fire fighting unit for the Mudgegonga CFA.
A possible partnership can be formed between this area and District 9650 which has already donated $100,000 and may have other additional funds available for such purposes as fencing.
The town of Marysville was basically destroyed – the only remaining buildings in the village are the Bakery and a reasonably large shed which was a car museum. The people remaining in the town are considering converting this building into a “shopping precinct” that would include areas for a hardware shop, a mini supermarket, a cafe, a post office, a bank etc.
These facilities are considered essential to assist the community to stay together while providing the basic essentials of living for it will be many years before the town itself will be re-built

A possible partnership between this area and District 9830 would be possible following the preparation of a submission to the appropriate authorities for approval and possible additional support for funding. It will be necessary to purchase the building to allow the process to commence.

The Kinglake Ranges Business Network requires a “home” in which the local small businesses can use to access the internet, have meetings and general office facilities/support. Most, if not all, have lost their homes and base to operate their business and this facility would provide the ability to operate while the long re-construction process occurs. The facility would then be used by other community groups if/when the primary need passes.

There is also a link on the District website to several images from the bush fires. Please note, some people may find them distressing and cause concern. They do, however, illustrate the environment that the survivors face every day during the cleaning and reconstruction process.

Alan Anderson
Assistant Governor Group 1
District Co-ordinator Bush Fire and Drought Recovery Committee
Rotary International District 9790