Regional groups finalists in state awards

KILMORE’S BlazeAid founders Rhonda and Kevin Butler have reached the semi-finals after being nominated for the Regional Achievement and Community Awards, alongside other Mitchell and Macedon residents nominated.

The Kilmore East residents are in the running for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Community Resilience Award.

The couple was nominated by Melissa Jones, who spoke highly of them and the work they have undertaken to support bushfire-affected communities.

“BlazeAid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with communities, families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods,”
Ms Jones said.

“The organisation began when founders, Kevin and Rhonda Butler, had approximately three kilometres of fences destroyed on their Kilmore East farm in the Black Saturday Bushfires of 2009.

“Knowing that it would take months to rebuild on their own, they requested help from family and friends, also putting a small add in the local community newspaper.”

Ms Jones said it was Ms Butler’s idea to ‘pay it forward’, which allowed BlazeAid to gain momentum and volunteers.

“Since then, they have mobilised and assisted affected farmers across Australia after each natural disaster, usually up and running within a week of the emergency,” Ms Jones said.

“Working alongside the rural families, BlazeAid volunteers help to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed.

“They come from across the country and all over the world, spending from a couple of days to many months helping farmers get back on their feet again.

“Volunteers are fed three meals a day, as well as snacks and are able to stay at the basecamp free of charge, with food and amenities covered by BlazeAid.”

Ms Jones said BlazeAid helped community-minded farmers who were in need.

“After a natural disaster, such as a fire or flood, a basecamp is established within a local town or shire,” she said.

“Camps run seven days a week (with rotating rest days) until the job is completed – usually between three and 10 months, depending how many properties are registered.

“The volunteers play such a vital role in helping the farmer to come to terms with such devastation and loss. Some farmers are in shock and don’t know where to start.”

Finalists from across the region in other award categories include Jock Lawrence, Avenel, and Lamb Bacon, Nulla Vale, who are both finalists for the Prime Super Agricultural Innovation Award, and Josh’s Rainbow eggs, Monegeetta, a finalist for the Ricoh Australia Customer Service Award.

Winners of the awards will be announced on December 4 and all nominees will receive a certificate.