Victorian Bushfire Relief Dinner

Wednesday 2nd December 2009

Moonee Valley Racing Club

On Wednesday 2nd December 2009, the Rotary Clubs of Strathmore (District 9790) and Sunshine (District 9800) combined to present the Victorian Rotary Bushfire Dinner at the Moonee Valley Racing Club.

The MC - Alan Murphy, Newspaper Columnist and Essendon Rotarian, introduced the Strathmore Club President, Frank Mills who opened the meeting.

President Frank Mills, welcomed Guest Speakers; Professor Liz Waters from Melbourne University, Ms Christine Nixon - Chair of The Victorian Bushfire Recovery and Reconstruction Authority and the Hon Bill Shorten, MP, Member for Maribyrnong - Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Disabilities and Children's Services.

President Frank also extended a very warm welcome to 400 other guests including Councillors from the City of Moonee Valley, District 9790 Governor David Cooke, a number of Past District Governors, District 9790 Governor Elect Alan Anderson, who is also Chair of the District Drought Relief & Bushfire Recovery Committee, and many other distinguished guests. Four Rotary Districts and 29 Rotary Clubs were represented.

Ms Christine Nixon and Hon. Bill Shorten outlined their experiences, concerns and plans for the future of the fire devastated areas.

Some highlights included:
Some $38.8 million has been raised for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund to date. Much of it has been distributed to the needy.

Another highlight was the rapid establishment of temporary housing (including Rotary Shelterboxes) and the building of temporary villages.

Cleaning up the fire damaged areas took longer than expected because of frequent stoppages to respect the sensitivities of property owners who were hoping to retrieve items of sentimental value.

Of major importance was the need to ensure that those affected were involved in the decisions that would impinge on their future wellbeing. This course of action was very time consuming as a number of former residents were still unable to decide whether to return and rebuild or to set-up home in other regions. It was important for people from outside the areas to realise that this process required patience on the part of all concerned. Attempts to hasten the process would have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of those who had already suffered so much.

Both speakers praised Rotarians for their initiatives in replacing fencing and for involving locals in identifying the needs of their particular communities.  Some 100,000 hours were expended by volunteers in rebuilding fences. The speakers also announced that the aid agencies, St. Vincent de Paul, Red Cross and the Salvation Army were able to forward 100% of the donations they received to those in need as the State and Federal governments paid all administration costs.

An interesting point was made that some 92% of insurance claims have been for cash payments from the insurance companies. These payments may or may not be used for rebuilding in the areas concerned.

An important milestone was to be reached in early December 2009, when the General Store in Kinglake was reopened.

At the end of the meeting a cheque for $10,000 was presented to DGE Alan Anderson by President Frank, who also announced that an additional amount of approximately $5000 had been raised with a well supported silent auction, a raffle and other donations. Following this announcement, the Chairman of the Strathmore Community Bank, Mr. Mark Burgin, announced that the bank would match the amount already raised on a dollar for dollar, bringing the total for the evening to almost $30,000.

Alan Anderson, District 9790 Chair of the Drought Relief & Bushfire Recovery Committee thanked the Clubs and those present for the donation.

Another cheque for $1200 was presented to Jenni Heenan, General Manager, Shelterbox Australia by President Frank.

President Frank thanked the many sponsors for their generous support, in particular the Strathmore Community Bank. The Bank Chairman was accompanied by several Board members at the meeting. A number of other sponsors, including Moonee Valley Council, Arrow Wood Products, Crown Casino and Minuteman Press, Essendon, attended with managers and members of their staff.

Planning for the event started way back in March/April as a concept over a beer and the rest is history.

In closing the meeting, President Frank thanked the Members of Strathmore and Sunshine Rotary Clubs for their help and support, and in particular, the Chairman of the organising committee P.P. Rod Gurry and Rotarians Vernon D'Souza, Bruce Anderson, Dick Barker & Greg Handley.

Kevin Walsh PP, PHF
Rotary Club of Strathmore

President Frank Mills
Rotary Club of Strathmore
Christine Nixon
Chair Victorian Bushfire Recovery Authority
Bill Shorten MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction
DGE Alan Anderson
receiving cheque for $10,000
Jenni Heenan receiving cheque for $1,200 on behalf of Shelterbox
Christine Nixon & Bill Shorten
with the Board of the Strathmore
Community Bank
DG David Cooke with
Christine Nixon & Bill Shorten