Pinery Bushfire

above: Chaplains - Ryan Bernhardt, David Woodroofe, Melissa Semmler, Tracey Butter, Marg Reimann, Kristy Adams, Tania Cattell, Kathryn Soar and Merry Bennett

above: Chaplains - Ryan Bernhardt, David Woodroofe, Melissa Semmler, Tracey Butter, Marg Reimann, Kristy Adams, Tania Cattell, Kathryn Soar and Merry Bennett

The Pinery bushfires may seem like a distant memory for those of us who didn’t experience the devastation firsthand six months ago. However, for those who personally experienced the bushfire, it is continuing to influence their daily life in many ways both small and large.

Most of the towns in the region devastated by the bushfire have SMG School Chaplains in their schools. The Chaplains have been able to work together with local churches, school communities and other organisations to provide the love, care and practical support needed for families and the wider community impacted by this disaster.

Tracey Butter is the Chaplain at Hamley Bridge Primary School. On the day of the fires she decided to stay with her husband and defend their property. Their home was spared, many others were not.

The communities of Hamley Bridge, Stockport and Tarlee were devastated by the Pinery Fire. Students, families and staff lost homes, gardens, pets and livestock, extensive damage to outbuildings, machinery, fences, crops and pastures and much more. Continuous dust storms hampered recovery efforts through a hot dry summer.

Tracey has recently undertaken ‘Stormbirds’ training to equip her more fully to support her community. She also had the opportunity to help distribute to families donations made to local churches of quilts, blankets and sewing kits along with Red Cross donations of door and window dust stoppers.

“The Balaklava churches donated 500 Christmas food hampers to all residents in Hamley Bridge and Stockport. What an amazing and generous gift that touched so many people just before Christmas, and an example of a country town helping and supporting another town when it most needed it.”

Tania Cattell is the Chaplain at both Two Wells and Owen Primary Schools. She was not working at either school on the day of the fire, but when she heard that Mallala Primary School had been evacuated to Two Wells Primary she headed straight there to help and support the Mallala students and staff because she knew that they didn’t have a chaplain at their school to provide pastoral care. 

“The day after the fire I was asked to bring water, bread and cheese for the students, families and staff of Owen Primary, which I was able to do with donations from a local supermarket and Two Wells Primary. I supported the Principal Cheryl Glenie, with hugs as requested and a listening ear during a very difficult emotional and stressful day.” Tania provided other support for staff and families resourcing information regarding support services such as empty containers for storage, loan cars, Christmas gifts, clothing and much more.

above: Tania Cattell, Chaplain at Owen and Two Wells Primary Schools

above: Tania Cattell, Chaplain at Owen and Two Wells Primary Schools

Two Wells Primary was very supportive and freed me up from my Chaplaincy commitments there to have extra time at Owen Primary. They also donated the proceeds from their end of year concert BBQ to four of the schools in the region affected by fire.”

Ryan Bernhardt is the Chaplain at Balaklava High School. His local church was the main drop off point for public donations initially and is still actively involved in assisting affected families with food hampers, financial help and clean-up work.

One of the year 8 boys at my school lost everything. His family lost their home and most of their farm property and equipment was destroyed. One of his most prized possessions was a signed Woodville West Torrens Football Club Guernsey. He was devastated that it was gone. I made contact with some lovely people at the club, and they organised to send out another signed Guernsey. When I gave it to the young lad at school, he cried. He took off his jumper, slipped on the Club Guernsey, put his school jumper back on and left it on all day. His mum rang me and thanked me, and said he hadn’t taken it off till after school the next day. It was so special to be part of something that exciting.

What is seen driving through the area six months after the bushfire is still a very sad reminder of the devastation and loss.  What is unseen is the work of our Chaplains, local churches and the community coming together and supporting families and communities.

The Chaplains have provided a conduit for initial and ongoing pastoral care and practical support. Your continued prayer and financial gifts are vital in providing this important service to those affected by the Pinery fires, and across the state.

If you would like to download the full Newsletter click here

Kerryn Coombs