The small alpine community of Batlow has come together to form a resilience hub following the devastating bushfires of 2019-20, with the aims of helping people across the Snowy Valleys recover and prepare for future disasters.
The idea was first sparked by Batlow-local Ray Billing, who described the hub as an avenue to build resilience in the community by identifying and responding to existing - and emerging - needs.
In early January, 2020, the devastating Dunns Road fire tore through the Snowy Valleys council area - and beyond - burning over half of the local government area's mass.
Batlow was labelled as undefendable, suffering extreme damage and losing numerous homes, livestock, crops and belongings. However, the town was saved from total devastation thanks to the hardworking volunteers and community members on the ground.
Mr Billing said that the COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately slowed the recovery process down significantly, hitting just three months after the fire.
Not only did the restrictions make things difficult, but the physical presence of a helping-hand was often missing in town.
The hub will act as a "reset button for the community", Mr Billing said, giving the community a chance to "step back and say hey, what can we do now".
"[There is work] being done at government levels, but that doesn't necessarily filter down to the residents that quickly," he added.
"There needs to be community-led recovery ... to put the recovery ownership back to the people who own the town and can see the future."
A resilience committee, made up of numerous stakeholders and community representatives, is looking into a venue in the centre of town - currently under renovation - to host the hub.
Mr Billing said he is hopeful to see it up-and-running by October.
Member for Wagga Dr Joe McGirr has played a role in helping form the resilience hub, hosting a number of recovery forums in Batlow alongside Resilience NSW and federal Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain.
It was at one of these forums where the idea for the hub was formed, and Dr McGirr said it's important to focus on the ongoing clean-up - and ongoing trauma - that still exists within bushfire affected communities.
"The further [you get] from the disaster, people still start coming out of the woodwork needing help," he said.
"They're still finding people in the community who have not sought help and are doing it tough.
"If the community is going to rebuild then there needs to be some support for social, mental health and resilience."
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The hub's committee has put out an expression of interest to individual community members and organisations, as well as community service organisations and private providers, to become part of the initiative.
This could involve taking up one of two staff positions, or having the willingness and capacity to support the hub in some way - whether it be through mental health support, artwork classes, mortgage broker services, an agriculture seminar and more.
"We're really open ended," Mr Billing said.
The hub has funding to run until 2023, and those wishing to get involved can contact Ray Billing via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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