BLAZEAID founders Kevin and Rhonda Butler have been recognised for their rebuilding efforts after the summer’s bushfires with a Commonwealth Point of Light award, signed by the Queen Elizabeth II.
With support of more than 1000 volunteers and bases across the country, BlazeAid works to clear and rebuild fencing destroyed by Australian bushfires – providing relief to rural communities.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Kilmore East couple will only receive their awards when it is safe to travel to Canberra – awarded to them by British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell.
“We started BlazeAid in Australia after the fatal Black Saturday fires in 2009, pledging to help – with local volunteers – a few dozen of our immediate neighbours to rebuild their burnt fencing over 14 days,” Mr Butler said.
“The idea caught on and in the ensuing 10 years, volunteers have poured in from all over Australia and the world to physically help others impacted by our country’s yearly recurrence of fires, floods and cyclones.
“After almost 250 natural disasters, hundreds of thousands of volunteers, farmers, donors and local communities have teamed together to rebuild 14,000 kilometres of new fencing, 400,000 working days on 9000 devastated farms.
“The value of work done by BlazeAid volunteers who make such a difference to the lives of others – who have lost almost everything they hold dear – is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Mr Butler posted to the BlazeAid Facebook page to inform almost 40,000 supporters of the achievement.
“BlazeAid is almost totally volunteerism with just one paid bookkeeper,” Mr Butler said.
“Today, BlazeAid has 26 base camps running over three states from Kangaroo Island in South Australia, throughout New South Wales and right up to the Queensland border following the 2019-20 Australian mega fires last summer.
“Volunteers have been working shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of farming families daily, seven days a week non-stop, to rebuild what fires destroyed in just minutes.
“We wake up every morning being so grateful to the thousands of BlazeAid volunteers who selflessly make a massive difference to the physical and mental health of hundreds of vulnerable country families in these devastated communities.
“We salute all BlazeAid volunteers who enrich the lives of others every day and it is them we humbly accept the award on behalf of – for these wonderful and dedicated volunteers have made BlazeAid a most loved and respected Australian charity.”
Ms Treadell said it was a delight to present the BlazeAid founders with the award.
“I am delighted to virtually present Kevin and Rhonda Butler with this award for their dedication and commitment to both their own community and other communities in Australia who have been impacted by natural disasters – including the recent devastating bushfires,” she said.
“They both demonstrate incredible commitment to BlazeAid: the volunteers they have recruited and the communities they support.
“They are making a significant impact on the lives of those that benefit from BlazeAid’s work.”