The New Year’s Eve week bushfires on the NSW South Coast will stay in the minds of those who lived through them for a long time. The unprecedented impacts, loss, and devastation for people, communities, wildlife and the environment is yet to be properly counted, and recovery will be a long haul.
Alan C is a resident of Banksia Lodge, an 80-bed residential aged care facility in Broulee just south of Batemans Bay. Like many other towns and hamlets in this region, Broulee experienced extreme threat levels and frightening conditions as the bushfires swept through on New Year’s Eve 2019 and then again just a few days later.
Keen to share his story
A couple of days after the emergency situation, with things returning to normal, Alan was keen to share his story about the events and to thank Banksia’s staff and volunteers who he describes as “simply incredible”:
“I’ve been a resident at Banksia nearly 8 years, and the staff here have always felt like my family. In the lead up to the New Year’s Eve bushfire and right through that day, they were just brilliant. They moved all of us up to Honeyeater* in the morning, and looked after us right around the clock until we got the all clear to go back to our rooms. We had lovely care at all times during the day, the food was excellent – we even had cake with our cuppas! They kept us really well informed and made sure we had what we needed. I couldn’t have wished for anything more.
I just can’t praise the staff enough. Some of them couldn’t get to their own homes, of course, with the road closures around the area, and stayed on at the Lodge. But they just kept looking after us. Some of them even slept there overnight. They were just brilliant, making sure we were ok right the way through.
And then it was all on again on the Saturday! But the staff were just as organised. We felt really safe and informed the whole time.
They say ‘Come home to Banksia’, and I reckon that’s right on the money. I’ve never felt more like a place was my home than going through this with these wonderful people.”
Banksia Lodge’s bushfire emergency plan is to shelter in place, as advised by the local fire authorities and Department of Health. While the fires did come close to the site on New Year’s Eve – and again on the ensuing high threat day of 4 January 2020 – Banksia came through with only minor damage to some outlying fences and all residents, staff and volunteers emerged safe and well.
Residents moved to an internal safe zone
Residents were moved to the internal fire-protected safe zone within the Lodge during the emergency conditions. They were faithfully supported and cared for by Banksia staff around the clock, assisted by a number of volunteers who contributed on the day.
As conditions return to normal, Banksia will be seeking to recognise the incredible efforts of staff and others during the most challenging event in Banksia’s history.
*Honeyeater Lounge, the internal wing at Banksia Lodge where the designated fire-safe internal evacuation centre is located.