One year on from the devastating bushfires which ravaged the communities of Rappville and Nymboida, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian paid a visit these communities on Monday and to receive an update on recovery efforts and offer special grants for local projects.
The Premier presented $11,000 which will be used for a bus shelter project at Nymboida, which will feature a mural commemorating the bushfires.
The Ewingar Community Hall, where around 100 locals took shelter during the fires, will receive $30,000 for air conditioning and solar panels.
During her visit, the Premier also took the opportunity to present prestigious NSW Government Community Service Awards.
At Nymboida, the Premier awarded two locals who rose to the challenge, going above and beyond in supporting their communities in the aftermath of the catastrophic bushfires.
The recipients were Georgia Foster-Eyles from Nymboida and Hayley Katzen from Ewingar.
Nymboida Recovery Hub donation co-ordinator Georgia Foster-Eyles said that receiving the NSW Government Community Service Award was a huge surprise.
“What can I say – I’m a little bit overwhelmed,” Georgia said.
“It’s amazing to be recognised, but there were so many people in the community who stood up. It’s a beautiful community.
“It was mainly about supporting the community, getting peoples details, finding out what was coming in (to the recovery hub) and being able to get it out to them.
“I set up a Facebook page and an sms service for people who weren’t on Facebook to keep people in touch and informed of what was happening.
“It’s going to be a huge process for a long time for a lot of people,” she said.
Hayley Katzen who is a member of the Ewingar Rural Fire Service, said that receiving the award felt a little odd, when you are only one part of a whole community.
“I really feel like I am accepting this on behalf of our community,” Hayley said.
“I’m very proud of our community for how we’ve come through an incredibly tough time and supported each other.
“The fire hit our community in early September last year and came back again on October 8. Two members of our community died and a number of our community lost homes and everybody lost some infrastructure.
“A lot of wildlife and stock died too. It was a really tough time.
“It’s an extraordinary community and there’s lots of healing that still needs to happen,” she said.
GEORGIA FOSTER-EYLES – Nymboida
Georgia has been a rock for the Nymboida community, one of the worst affected by the fires that ripped through the village on 8 November destroying around 96 homes and damaging 17 others. Georgia along with a small team of volunteers helped co-ordinate the immediate recovery. What makes Georgia stand out is she has been there for the long haul and is only now easing out. She is a young mum who turned up day after day with a baby on her hip and became the focal point of contact for Government agencies and NGO’s to communicate with the wider community through social media/SMS. She also co-ordinated the fundraising process and donations and established a tool library from a shipping container in order to provide access to donated tools and equipment for the community to use as part of the clean-up. She is without a doubt very worthy of a community service award.
HAYLEY KATZEN – Ewingar
Being a member of the local bushfire brigade at Ewingar, Hayley actively fought the bushfires that ripped through the small, isolated community on 8 October where sadly two community members perished and saw extensive property losses. Hayley went onto become a focal point of contact in her community and become the community spokesperson. She chaired the community recovery meetings and led the visit by the Governor General and his wife in the aftermath of the fires. She was also involved in organising a benefit concert post bushfires. It’s been an emotional few months for Hayley, a cattle farmer who at the time of the fires was in her final week of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer and dealing with the impacts of the drought. Despite her own challenges, Hayley played an enormous role in supporting the Ewingar community during these difficult times.