We are Australian
For Mosman resident Blair Leslie, lending a helping hand to Central Tablelands locals during the fire crisis was a bittersweet experience.
Blair, himself, tragically lost his own farmhouse and shed in the raging bushfires that swept the region.
It was this personal experience that inspired the Assistant Governor of Rotary District 9685 to reach out and assist fellow community members that had been affected.
In mid-January, Blair, backed by Mosman Rotary and the wider district, travelled to the towns of Clarence, Capertree, Dargan, Ilford, Rylstone, Glen Alice and Olinda and distributed 1,750 face masks to locals.
The NP95/P2 masks allow those who have lost property to safely go into fire damaged areas and clean up and sort through the debris.
“It gave such a sense of satisfaction to support the people that have supported us during the period of the fire and also during the recovery,” Blair tells North Shore Living.
“There’s an awful lot of work still to go in the clean-up, and this was for residents’ own safety.”
Luca Meyerson and Zachary Fisher
Northbridge Public School
After seeing the devastating coverage of the bushfires on television, seven-year-old friends Luca and Zac decided they wanted to do their bit to help.
“I felt really sad about the people who lost their homes in the bushfires,” Luca tells North Shore Living.
“We thought it was a good thing to do,” Zac adds.
With the help of their mums Georgia and Rhea, the boys set up a small stall selling homemade lemonade, orange juice and biscuits.
Thanks to the support of the local community, the determined boys raised more than $1,000 for the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery appeal.
The appeal raises funds to provide staff, volunteers and aid workers to assist fire affected regions, establish relief and recovery centres and provide grants to locals and communities.
The boys’ incredible efforts caught the attention of local Federal MP Trent Zimmerman, who provided them each with a certificate of appreciation.
“Some people even came up and told us that they lived in the country and had lost their houses. They said thank you,” Zac says.
“Everybody [in the community] supported us and I felt really proud of myself,” Luca shares.
Part-owner Bathers’ Pavilion, Balmoral
One day in early January, as the sheer vastness of the destruction across NSW began to be known, two staff members from Mosman’s Bathers Pavilion approached owner Ian Pagent.
Their simple request for the local fine dining establishment to do what it could for those impacted by the fires turned into an incredible community effort, raising $228,000 in donations.
In just 13 days, Ian, chef and fellow owner Serge Dansereau and their staff pulled together a night of outstanding food and entertainment for 237 local guests.
Staff, MCs Lisa Wilkinson and Peter FitzSimons, and entertainers Amelia Farrugia and the Australian Girls Choir, each donated their time, while the restaurant’s food and wine suppliers provided all supplies for the night free of charge.
“It meant we were able to give every dollar we raised on the night to the three charities,” Ian explains.
“I’m really pleased we did it. Sometimes in the 13 days, we wondered what the heck we’d done, but we gave the community the opportunity to get involved and they were very grateful for that.”
Guests raised money through betting on auction items, and a notable $75,000 was donated through personal pledges to one of the three charities supported on the night – the Australian Red Cross, the Rural Fire Service and WIRES.
“To me, it showed Mosman’s incredible generosity,” Ian says.
Genevieve Delves, Chris James, Yanda Morison and Scott Wilson
Willoughby Fire & Rescue NSW
It was just a few of days short of Christmas when Willoughby Fire and Rescue’s C Platoon got the call out to assist in battling the catastrophic Gospers Mountain blaze.
What started as a normal day on the job saw the crew fighting ardently alongside Fire and Rescue Riverstone to protect property just outside of Clarence.
“We were surprised to come across a house where two old people were bunkered down,” Chris James, Station Office at Willoughby Fire & Rescue recalls.
“We got them out into their car, they drove away and an hour later we came back and their house was completely destroyed.
“They would have been gone if they didn’t get out.”
In the same day, the local platoon came across a young man and his friend waiting atop a roof to face the fire front.
As the devastating blaze tore through, the crew battled tooth and nail to save the man’s property.
While their efforts proved a success, it was a bittersweet outcome for the man, who later realised his property was the only one able to be saved.
“From what I understand, it still just rattles him a little bit – the magnitude of what he actually experienced and, I guess, just the sadness that all his neighbours lost their houses,” says firefighter Genevieve Delves.
The platoon says they have been humbled by the support of the Willoughby community, with cards, cupcakes, cookies and more all given as gestures of thanks for their efforts.