Greyshirt Reflections; the Australian Bushfires

Greyshirt Maria tells us about her time helping Team Rubicon Australia with their bushfire recovery effort.


The blazing fires have been tearing across New South Wales, Australia for weeks causing untold damage to people, wildlife and infrastructure. Smoke settled like throat scratching mist over the entire area that we worked in. Myself, Broadie and Saj flew out to help Team Rubicon Australia with their bushfire recovery efforts, spending two weeks with their Greyshirts and Greyshirts from Team Rubicon Norge.

We met some incredible, resilient people who had seen everything they own destroyed by these fires. One man we met, who lived alone, had lost everything he owned except for hismotorbike and chainsaw. He battled to hold a smile as he told us about his loss. The fol-lowing day we introduced him to the Strike Team that would help him to ‘lift and sift’ through his incinerated belongings, searching for remnants of his life. When we arrived, I gave him a tight, long hug. He wasn’t wearing shoes as we moved across his blackened land. He told me that it was his 39th birthday. Whilst I was happy that we brought help and support on his birthday it was also heartbreaking that what should be a day of celebration was going to be a day trying to salvage what little we could of his life and belongings. After we introduced him to the Strike Team that would be with him for the day, we shared an-other tight embrace and left to find the next survivor.

Along the miles of dirt track, through the fallen charcoal trees and far beyond the last sign of life, we eventually found a couple whose isolated property was now just the skeletal re-mains. As we walked through what was left of their home, they recounted how the fires had killed nearly all their animals. They were now living in a tent away from the wreckage. It seemed like an insurmountable challenge for the couple to clear the remains of their home but the Greyshirts were undaunted. We sifted through the remnants of their home and we retrieved their veteran grandparents’ medals from under the heavy blanket of ash. The medals, and the clothes they were wearing when they evacuated, were all they had left. Now, they must start their lives again from scratch. They were grateful that we had been able to provide them with a blank canvas as well as the knowledge that there are people who are willing to cross half of the world to volunteer to help them in their time of need.

The fire is relentless, unforgiving and indiscriminate; but we all refuse to let it be final.


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