Australia’s Biggest Working Bee, a community effort to help the Sarsfield fire recovery made sure Labour Day long weekend lived up to its name.
The weekend was about making the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time.
Organised by the combined teams at Fencing for Fires founder, Jaime Wolf, Tradies for Fire-Affected Communities (TFFAC) founders, Piers Smart and Jackson Taylor, and assisted support from East Gippsland Community Support founder, Rob Johnson, this dream became a reality with the assisted support and backing from the multinational professional service giant, Deloitte.
Nearly 90 volunteers stuck their hands up to help out over the three days. The group was made up of around 41 tradies and helpers, 27 scouts, leaders and parents from both Strzelecki and Bairnsdale groups, along with 17 catering volunteers.
Many local businesses helped out by donating produce. The Lions club secured the insurance cover for the volunteers and the bushfire recovery centre supplied showers, toilets and a cool room.
All catering was coordinated by local resident, Helen Fisher, with assistance by many other local residents who ensured all were fed throughout the weekend.
The jobs allocated for the weekend included both skilled and unskilled labour, anything from basic repairs, fencing, lawn mowing, establishing garden beds, plumbing, electrical and manual labour.
A similar event also took place in north east Victoria (Upper Murray) at the same time.
“We just wanted to really help scale up and make things work because we felt this would have the most direct impact on bushfire-affected people,” organisers, Piers Smart and Jackson Taylor, of TFFAC, said.
“It’s about making the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time and injecting money into these communities as well.”
Local Sarsfield resident and ‘go-to’ liaison, Amy Fisher said “it’s absolutely fantastic what Piers and Jackson have set up”.
“It’s so much more than just putting up fences and fixing some stuff,” she said.
“It is mind blowing all the volunteers work their usual jobs during the week and then give up their weekends to help us. I am in awe of the selflessness of all the volunteers helping out complete strangers.
“Having a big group of volunteers all turn up and even just talking to them has made so much difference to the recovery. Just seeing the volunteers out there on the ground saying, ‘how can we help?Wanting to get out and do stuff for you.
“The mental health boost they are giving is the best thing. They are out there doing what is actually needed to help these people.”
Amy said all these things add up.
“Without the volunteers these people would struggle to get this work done,” she said.
The volunteers are completing tasks that have made a huge impact on lives. For instance carrying out fencing works at Clifton Creek and Sarsfield and projects for the Wildlife Shelter at Waterholes, along with activities like digging trenches, installing pipes, getting running water back to properties, building woodsheds, mowing lawns, cleaning gutters, cutting trees and building steps for an older couple to access their caravan.
A site for workers was organised by Amy at the Sarsfield Recreation Reserve, a spot to camp, shower facilities and other bits and pieces to make sure it wasn’t too rough, not that it bothered most of the volunteers.
The volunteers were grateful to be part of an amazing weekend.
IMAGE: Fencing for Fires combined resources with Tradies for Fire-Affected Communities and East Gippsland Community Support to organise Australia’s Biggest Working Bee over the Labour Day long weekend. Around 90 volunteers stuck their hand up to help out over the three days. PICTURED: Billie Killoran, Freya Jordan, Tara Jordan, Terry Maki (Sarsfield resident), Kurt Mocicka, Lyndall Shanahan, Jenni Lange, Piers Smart, Ian MacLean, Trevor Sams and Dan Eastman. (PS)