Australia: The Financial and Emotional Fallout of Tragic Brushfires
A Western Australian single mother of 5 claims she will be homeless within weeks as she struggles with the financial and emotional fallout of a tragic bushfire that all but destroyed her hometown.
Sunshine Paewai’s, 36, family home in the dusty agricultural town of Yarloop, 125 kilometres south of Perth, was razed during the January brushfire which also killed 2 local men and destroyed 150 other homes.
She has been forced to find a rental a further 60 kilometres down the road in Bunbury and cut her work hours to just 1 day a fortnight.
Ms Paewai said she could no longer afford her rent and was considering moving back to her devestated block in Yarloop to set up a makeshift camp for herself and her 3 youngest children.
She said she feels helpless watching 2 of her teenage children struggle to come to terms with the loss of their home.
“I’ve lost my house, my job, my kids; it has completely devastated not just their home, but their whole lives. I just need to go home. I just want my family back together. I just want my life.”
Ms. Paewai said she had received little assistance from government support agencies after the devastating brushfire.
“I’ve gone to ask for help but they never seem to have anything for me or I don’t seem to fit the criteria,” she said.
“I don’t have any family here in WA except for my mum and she lives up in Perth and can only do so much, I don’t have any family down this way.”
Residents who attended a community meeting in March were told the clean-up would take up to 19 weeks, however the State Government has now revised that timeline to as much as 9 months.
Local business owners have also reported being charged exorbitant fees by the government-sanctioned contractor to clear their properties in the aftermath of the brushfire.
Ms Paewai said she and other residents were frustrated and at the end of their tethers.
“I’d just like to know where all the money went that was supposed to be for all the families,” she said.
“Where is all the money for people like us that are waiting to go home and have got nowhere else to go, have got no other family?
“I’m sure if it was a different town it would have been fixed by now. I just do not understand why it hasn’t been done.”
Locals feel they have been “kept in dark” and it is a very painful time.
By Rhys O’Connell
Paul Ebeling, Editor
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