Southern Downs Regional Council Mayor Vic Pennisi.
Southern Downs Regional Council Mayor Vic Pennisi.

Mayor confident in ‘resilient’ community

'WHAT doesn't kill us makes us stronger' is the message from Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Vic Pennisi, as the region gears up to get back on its feet.

It's been more than eight months since the devastating bushfires ripped through the region, while the community continues to recover, coronavirus has furthered the task.

But as the region continues to persist, Cr Pennisi said there is only one way to recover, and that is by coming together.

"We are going to get through this together, we are going to pull together and we are going to work together," he said.

Labelled a 'resilient' community, Cr Pennisi said it's nothing the community hasn't recovered from before.

"Our communities are really resilient - They have been made that way because a lot of our people here span over five or six generations, they have been through these sort of things in the past. We will come out of this stronger than what we were before."

While bushfire recovery is well under way and the region's recovery from coronavirus is just beginning, Cr Pennisi said plans are already in motion.

"There will be pain - but we are very conscious of that and together we are planning on how we are going to recover."

While September's bushfires emotionally and physically drained Broadwater Rural Fire Bridge firefighter Sally Rowen, she said she has come out the other side both stronger and more appreciative.

 

Broadwater Rural Fire Brigade firefighter Sally Rowan.
Broadwater Rural Fire Brigade firefighter Sally Rowan.

 

One of the first on the scene of the fire, she said she was quickly called away to evacuate her family from her Glenlyon Dr home.

"I found it very challenging as a firefighter," Ms Rowen said.

"We managed to save most of the houses in Happy Valley and are all recovering very well.

"We are a very close-knit neighbourhood. If anything it has brought us closer together and made us appreciate each other a whole lot more."

 

Photograph taken by Stanthorpe resident Keith Barnett on Friday evening during the September bushfires.
Photograph taken by Stanthorpe resident Keith Barnett on Friday evening during the September bushfires.

 

As the clean-up continues, Ms Rowen said the positive outcomes definitely outweigh the negative.

"I couldn't love where I live any more than I do," she said.

"People have seen what can happen now and are being more cautious when starting fires.

"In the scheme of things it could have been a lot worse. I am fortunate to be a rural firefighter because I knew what to do in the situation."

As charitable organisations continue to help out where needed, Purple Dove Awareness Group founder Chris Robins said while the demand of need still continues, it is more coronavirus related rather than bushfire.

"That's my opinion," Mrs Robins said.

"The virus has affected a broader range of people than what the fires did."

As the bushfire need demand has decreased, she said the coronavirus need has increased.

"The virus has really knocked people around. So many people have lost their jobs and are really struggling."

While people continue to struggle, she said Purple Dove is always there to provide a helping hand.

"We still have our 'Food is Free' down the front of our property. There is an abundance of food there for people who have lost their jobs and need support."

If you are struggling and need assistance, phone Chris Robin on 0416 169 032.