Saturday, February 28, 2009

Flowerdale gets Rockin'

Sitting in the pub listening to the music, while working hard on pulling together the plans for the Village. We got the firebreak in place yesterday, great effort from Ian Kennedy and Rob Dumsday, we talked about it on Thursday and it was done by Friday.

On a less happy note the Police and Army Forensic teams are working through the areas of the town that were destroyed on Black Saturday. A tough job but they are putting in a big effort and have a very large team. It is part of the process and until they finish the clearing process can't begin.

The roadblock at the Community Hall has been moved back towards Whittlesea so at least people can access the Pub without going into the destruction zone.

Expecting a heap of stuff to land in the Village tomorrow and today cranes are putting the 27,000 lt. water tanks in place.

Cool new quiet generator has landed and will be sufficient to provide power for the time being.

Expecting huts to land tomorrow.

If anyone has access to large marquees (10m X 21m with floors) let me know because we have one that is being hired but it is not a sustainable long term solution.

Keep rocking...Flowerdale Rocks....blues music, pub is going off

Friday, February 27, 2009

Village on the Move

Well things are continuing to happen at the Rec Reserve. A Team comprising the Community Committee, a range of private sector organisations, the Murrindindi Shire and State Government are rapidly preparing plans and a submission to the Bushfire Reconstruction Authority to get the Rec Reserve facilities into shape.

In the meantime some fire firghting equiupment has been put in place and more will come in today. We are also hoping to excavate a firebreak around the perimeter of the reserve today given the concerns about the weather today.

There was a lot of excitement when the three Xbox machines complete with screens rolled in last night(thanks Microsoft). We hope to have the Telstra antenna in today which will give us much better reception as well as internet access.

Things are moving fast and looking promising, will keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Flowerdale Kinder in the news and on the go

Well the Kinder is up and running in the rec reserve clubrooms. See,21985,25084144-661,00.html

The old one is totally destroyed.

Over the weekend $3,000 was raised and I was able to give community representatives a cheque for $1000. A number of people are asking about things they can give, because the Kinder has no home they are running from the Recreation Reserve clubrooms and have nowhere to put anything. The key cash requirement is to be able to pay staff for extending the hours of operation. They are also looking to save money to buy outdoor equipment in the next couple of months, by which time there will be a Portable Classroom at the school. At that stage I can give details of things rather than cash.

If you want to donate to help the Kinder keep going contact the treasurer:

Chrissie Grant on 03 57801516

If you can donate funds send cheques to:

Flowerdale Kindergarten
PO Box 2012
Hazeldene, VIC, 3717

Flowerdale rebuilding gets government support

At the Flowerdale Recovery Team meeting it was announced that the Premier John Brumby has given in principle support to help fund the builing of a temporary village that the community has already began to establish.

In another boost Major General John Cantwell, the Chief Operating Officer of the Victorian Bushfire Recovery and Reconstruction Authority will visit Flowerdale to get things moving for the temporary village.

The Recovery team has set the target for ten units in two weeks and with the help of the VBRRA will get there. This is great news for the town and follows yestereday when the school reopened with almost a full attendance.

The tireless work of many of the townspeople, the community committee and the volunteers is paying off. I will post the press release as soon as i can get it.

The fighting Flowerdallians continue to punch way above their weight

Sunday, February 22, 2009

23rd February is a big day for Flowerdale

You may have seen in the news how Flowerdale has taken direct action to get residents accommodation and is setting up a temporary village on the recreation reserve.

The two vans in shot were donated by the Portland House Foundation, and they also donated a couple of others to people in town. The village is growing quickly and is known as Crashtown, not only because it will be a place to crash, but the guy running it on the ground is known as Crash.

I took in laptops and a printer, donated by Deloitte, on the weekend and Telstra is setting up an antenna on Monday. We expect to have a little internet cafe set up so residents can finally access information.

The State Government will tomorrow inform the town committee formed in the aftermath of the bushfires what support it will give. The speed with which things are moving really requires that significant funding (we are talking more than $1m but less than $5m in my humble guesstimation) is given to provide the necessary infrastructure such as toilets, cooking facilities, water etc without too much red tape and bureaucracy.

Another key factor will be to let the community set the tone for how it will work. Flowerdillians don't want it to be like an "indian reservation" more as a facility for those who have lost homes and want to stay in the community.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Update - 21 Feb - Action Stations

Came into Flowerdale today and things are on the move. Portland House rolled in with the first four caravans to the mini village starting to establish itself on the rec reserve. We have the lap tops on the ground and Telstra will set up an antenna with access on Monday.

About six families have been established and more activity is happening around the newly delivered caravans.

Still need some cash to get kindergarten staff up and running, they only did 16 hours historically but we really need to run 5 days a week. My parents and my wife and I have put in the first $1000 but we need more. Will post details of where to put in direct deposits and cut out the middle man (ie me). Spirits are high things are happening. Watch this space and i will try to find out more info on what help they need

Friday, February 20, 2009

Flowerdale in the news

Well little flowerdale is really getting attention, it has been in the news all over the world and the latest vid from Fairfax has my niece in it. She is wearing the pink stripey pyjamas and has plaits,

Cash for Kindergarten

Just spoke to the locals, they want to reopen the kindergarten and need some cash to do so. They need about $5,000 to get going any ideas let me know. or 0433141943

Help with Horses

Anyone in Flowerdale who needs help with horses:

For Flowerdale and surrounds - Drop/Collection point:

Three Sisters Farm, Road side number 2724, Broadford/ Flowerdale Road, Flowerdale, (between Seymour amd Yea). Person supervising the distribution is Allan Schulz 57802300 or 0417 591 302.

If there are any specific needs, please advise Allan or TREW, and we will do our best to provide whatever it is on one of our deliveries.

Thanks to my sister and the Victorian Horse forum for helping out

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On the Ground update

The ADF are on the ground helping with meals but the word is they are moving out tomorrow so the Flowerdallians will have to fend for themselves again. Not sure what the ADF strategy is they pulled out last Thursday then came back on Tuesday and are pulling out again.

There are quite a few kids there and the normal swimming holes in the King Parrot Creek have been contaminated so a couple of blow up splash pools might be useful but there is not much water, sure we can work that out.

The other thing that would be really useful would be child minding or a temporary creche. The parents are trying to get things together but have kids in tow, and anyone who has had kids knows how hard it is to get things done when kids are bored and hanging around.

Accommodation is a problem and hopefully we can get some caravans in soon.

Got the laptops today (thanks to the Deloitte IT people for sorting this out) and Telstra are helping me with Next G cards. Telstra have really stood up in terms of getting comms up and helping the victims.

I bought a printer/fax/copier to take up on the weekend which will be useful.

The residents of Flowerdale Rd, Glen Iris have adopted their namesake town, thanks Diana. If anyone wants to contact me re help call me on 0433141943 or email , i am also regularly updating on twitter my name on there is rexster

Crime Scene or Disaster Zone - a reflection

I have posted a number of times regarding the difficulty residents have had getting in and out of fire affected areas, even residents who have never effectively "left" their communities have experienced difficulties at roadblocks. There have also been problems whereby Vicroads publishes that a road is open to residents yet the police on the ground are not letting residents, with ID, through.

In my interactions with a number of different police officers most, but not all, refer to the fire affected areas as a "crime scene". If you think of a crime scene the objectives are to get people out, seal it off and carry out a detailed investigation. Applying a crime scene perspective at a roadblock results in "it doesn't matter who you are or what you are doing, you can't come in". As the fire affected area is spread over hundreds of thousands of hectares and many residents never left the area other than to access relief and return, a crime scene approach was always going to create point of conflict.

In a disaster zone the objectives are to make it safe, get the help and relief we need and remove any barriers or hindrances. Many residents in fire affected areas got very frustrated when they came up against the "crime scene" perspective when trying to get to relief centres and then return to their communities.

It does seem that the responsibility for roadblocks is now with Vicroads, which would indicate that the police have largely finished their work of victim location and identification as well as the investigative side of their work (those victim ID police have such a terrible job but do it very well). Hopefully there will be less conflict and stress and we can focus on the disaster zone perspective.

Help is in town

Just spoke to a journalist who was up in Flowerdale yesterday. Sounds like things are really happening. The army is back, power is gradually being restored and things are on the move. There is still a shortage of accommodation which no doubt will take time to coordinate.

Residents were feeling isolated but now feeling much better that things are on the move.

I have got six laptops with internet access, and a printer/fax/photocopier, to take up on the weekend, subject to my ability to evade roadblocks, and will do the grant applications so the residents will be more able to connect to the outside world.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

DHS dislocation grants - too hard for survivors

i am really pleased that the DHS has made dislocation grants available however many survivors will struggle with the requirements.

To apply you need:

A copy of the form
Copies of ID documents (eg Licence, passports, medicare)
Copies of bills with your address
A statutory declaration witnessed by an eligible person

I took the forms over to my parents in law last night, and as i am an eligible witness (i am a Chartered Accountant, who became a web guy). They had their ID and were lucky to grab some paperwork when they left. They will need to get to a photocopier to lodge their form today to provide copies.

In places like Flowerdale many survivors will not have bills or ID, when your place is on fire you tend to grab photos and pets rather than bills. i dont think there is a copier in town.

I am taking forms in on the weekend with a printer and copier and will cover as many as I can but i think it may be a pretty big hassle for many in the affected communities. Will keep you posted

The survivor spirit

Most of my posts have been on the agitated side of the ledger and i thought it is important to let people know that the community spirit is still alive and well in Flowerdale. In town the words "god's own country" are often heard even after the fires. You see a lot more smiles than tears, you hear a lot more laughs than cries and although frustration often rises it quickly turns to ironic laughter.

The community is all together at the pub and people of all ages who stayed in town throughout black Saturday and have never left are all there to help each other. The community has been through hell but their spirit, sense of togetherness and sense of humour will make them stronger. The locals reckon that maybe half the people will never return. I have spoken to Flowerdale residents who are in Whittlesea and for some they simply say "I never want to go back up that hill again" which is completely understandable. But for those who stay, they will put up with the rough conditions and the frustrations, because they know what they have been through has forged a unique community bond which most of us will never have the joy of experiencing.

It's not just me

I have been contacted by a few people in recent days who are also feeling stressed at the coordination problems and absence of commonsense and compassion on the ground. A CEO of a tech company drove up to Flowerdale on Monday with a load of supplies such as toiletries and other essentials and was told at the Flowerdale roadblock to take the stuff to Clayton, maybe a call to the pub by the roadblock dudes could have got the stuff in without compromising the "residents only" policy.

Another industry colleague took a whole week off and set up a mobile internet cafe in a truck at the Whittlesea relief centre complete with staff on the ground to assist. He had nothing but grief from the authorities from the local and state government authorities. Given that homeless victims cannot access information this is an invaluable service and I used it myself on Sunday. Sort of weird that the Scientologists are allowed to run a massage tent but a tech guy cant offer free web access. Anyway he didn't move and kept it going. He said all week he was helping residents frustrated by the lack of information.

It is interesting that many of the most useful things have been self organised like, the bushfirehousing website, the #bushfires twitterers like @retrogrrl @geehall @peace_ @cfaupdates and @rexster (that is me) and any other twitterers that I forgot to mention. (i am in a train and my connection just dropped so i cant check)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A good 48 hours

Things are starting to come together, my brother and sister in law and my little nephew and niece are all back together in Flowerdale. The have a one room shack with a few tents around its basic but they are together. Apart from the occasional little flare up the fire danger has abated, (with fire danger being a fairly relative term these days after Black Saturday).

The DHS has set up a dislocation grant which gives those who have either lost their house or been unable to get into their house for more than 7 days $5000 for the first adult, $2000 for other adults and $1500 per child.

I think this money will come from the donated funds. it is good to see money flowing from donations to victims quickly. It is not means tested but each adult has to sign a stat dec which will no doubt be a pain in the butt for some people. If you can sign stat decs and know some vixtims it would be good to take the forms to them and help them get it done. i will look after parents in law tonight and take forms up to Flowerdale on the weekend. As a Chartered Accountant i can sign. Police can also sign stat decs so it shouldn't be too hard to get the paperwork signed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Eureka Spirit and karma among the ashes

I took a few photos during my time in the Flowerdale area yesterday and thought people might like to see what it is like on the inside.

This one is my brother in law standing in what is left of his house with a Eureka flag tshirt. He is exhausted after 8 days of fires and stress but is going to stay in the community and rebuild

The only thing that survived intact was this Buddha head, in the words of my brother in law, "that's karma"

The next two give you an idea of how devastated the area is

Another tough day in Flowerdale

I got into Flowerdale at 6.00pm yesterday with a family relief convoy of 5 vehicles to reunite my sister in law and brother in law and their kids, as well as set up a makeshift home so they can start the process of rebuilding.

We grabbed what we needed from the Whittlesea and Diamond Creek Relief centres as well as buying out all supplies of Ratsak from the Greensborough supermarket and grabbing some gas bottles. The amount of help available on the ground at the relief centres is overwhelming and I can tell you that the donations of goods are getting to the survivors.

Negotiating police roadblocks was a different story. We got through the first two at Whittlesea and Humevale easily enough but at Kinglake West there was no way the gung ho police officer was letting us in, even though we had four residents with us two of whom had come down the hill on the same road through the same roadblock an hour earlier. The officer told us that fires had just flared up and the road was now closed to everyone, even residents. Unfortunately for the officer at that moment another Flowerdillian hit the roadblock from the other side and we asked about the road. His reply "Mate, I had the best run ever, it is as clear as a bell and didn't see another vehicle all the way", "but we were just told the fires had flared again", "Maaate. there is nothing left to burn the road is clear". I enquired as to why the officer would lie to us and he invoked the old chestnut "I am just following instructions".

We then had to endure a two hour journey through many of the fire ravaged regions, Kinglake West, Pheasant Creek, Kinglake, Dixons Creek, Glenburn and then Flowerdale. It was like going on a journey through a war zone.

The Flowerdillians have been particularly upset because it has been so hard for them to access relief supplies. They were also stunned to see the sheer mass of resources in Kinglake, not that they think Kinglake doesn't deserve them, they just wonder why factors combine to make it so hard for them to access the basics like diesel, petrol, food, barbeques etc. There is talk of a conspiracy against them but at the end of the day they feel like the town that has been forgotten.

A couple of locals were worried about being able to get to work this week, not so much getting out but in being able to get back in after the dusk curfew if the Kinglake West roadblock doesn't open to the residents (who have ID bands).

The good news is that Vicroads has published that the Kinglake West to Flowerdale Road is now open to residents on the website when i checked 9.00am this morning) but I just spoke to the residents and they are telling me they are still being diverted around the long way @4.20pm. I drove out on the road last night at about 1.00am and it was no problem at all. This is the biggest problem of all for Flowerdale residents. Not sure how to get the roads people and police to coordinate but will keep trying.

They are pretty right for things although i am going to get some camping showers and a couple of bbqs up there asap.

I posted some pics from my day in Flowerdale at

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why are you doing this Victoria Police?

Just got off the phone to my sister in law 8.30pm 14/2. Yesterday she came down from Flowerdale having been involved in fighting fires with no outside assistance for days, (see the video in the previous post). She was given a Resident's ID band and told she could come back.

She had come down and Thursday as well to give me the cry for help and to try to get the story out, (see first post). She got back in by running two road blocks.

She went to the relief centres in Diamond Creek and Whittlesea to get some of the things she needed and was planning to go back. She was just told by the police that they will not let her back up to Flowerdale and if she breaks the roadblock she will be arrested.

Why are the police effectively holding Flowerdale under siege? Can't you guys just get out of the way. The Flowerdale residents have given up hoping for help from the authorities and are fighting the fight on their own; why do they have to put up with this type of hindrance?

This is a disgrace and must be exposed.

See for youself

Want to see how tough these boys are; fighting fires with no help. Here they are, my brother in law is on at 1m07s and my sister in law is on at 3m40s

Geez i am proud of them, they are as tough as nails, dont understand why they are left to do this on their own can't someone do something

things were moving

just heard from flowerdale that residents are still being buggerized around trying to get the stuff they need into the town, why cant the authorities either lead, follow or GET OUT OF THE WAY. If authorities on the ground dont want to help that is cool but dont stop the people helping themselves

Like I said, danger to the people who survived and remained are walls of flame 30 metres high and they aren't particularly worried about the potential dangers of things like asbestos dust or other weird reasons being given to them. They dont want what is left in the town to go up, like the house that was lost on Thursday and reported in my first post. Check out news feed from ABC online

things are moving

Supplies started to flow into Flowerdale yesterday but more importantly authorities have now given ID armbands to residents to let them get out and come back in.

Prior to that the residents who had stayed in the community were unable to access the relief supplies.

My sis in law got down to the Diamond Creek relief centre and was able to get plenty of the essentials like:

A mobile phone with $600 of prepaid call - Thanks Optus
Torches and Batteries
Clothes for herself and kids
Some toys for the kids
Tents, sleeping bags and blankets
Some time with a counsellor
A massage
Some food to take up the hill

The kids were happy and are keen to go back to "the free shop".

I think the biggest thing for my Sis in law was that there was so much help available but the policy of the emergency services meant people in the hardest hit and more isolated spots could not access it and felt abandoned as per the first post on the blog.

I think the lesson here is once the immediate threat is gone residents should be allowed to get in and out, using some form of ID to be able to get what they need when they need it.

Hopefully we will get back in today and see what else they need

Friday, February 13, 2009

We are being heard

I just spoke to the Flowerdale pub, water is coming in as well as the Red Cross. There is even a truck of beer on the way.

Victims had community meeting this morning and things are coming together.

I will try to get in tomorrow and find out what we can do and when. If I can get in I will update the situation and capture some stories.

This will be a long road but thank you all who have given the community a voice. The community really appreciates what we have done to get them help and when they said "Thanks Mate" it was a thank you to us all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A cry for help from the forgotten people of Flowerdale

On Saturday the town of Flowerdale was devastated by the Black Saturday bushfire. While the official death toll is four the locals know that will rise dramatically. A group of 30 people that survived the flames have stayed in the town to protect the few houses and buildings that are left. If they leave they won't be let back into the area.

The final straw for my sister in law came at 6.00am today (12/02/09) when those left fought to save one of the remaining houses that caught on fire overnight. They fought with no water, no fire trucks and no support from the Army that was in the area. They lost the fight.

After that my sister in law drove out of the town with pages of handwritten notes from the forgotten victims and begged me to do what I could to get their story heard and get help now.

She got back into town by driving straight through two police road blocks after she had delivered the messages below.

Please read the comments. Each of the first nine comments below comes from these notes. I dont know what to do but if you read this and can do something to get their story out maybe the authorities will do something to help these brave but desolate souls. Journo's ring the Flowerdale Pub on 03 57801230 and get the story yourselves

Pete Williams 03 92087629 or