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BlazeAid camp supports Seymour district farmers

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Max Davies
Max Davies
Max is a journalist for the North Central Review. He joined the paper as a cadet journalist in 2021 and graduated from La Trobe University in 2023. He takes a keen interest in motorsport and the automotive industry.

By Max Davies

BlazeAid has rolled into Seymour’s Chittick Park, setting up camp to assist property owners who are still working to recover from damage caused by October’s floods.

Opened on February 14 and operating out of Seymour Scout Hall, the camp is in need of volunteers who can spare any amount of time to work with the volunteers to assist at various properties across the Seymour district.

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While work has been completed at four of the 10 properties that have registered for assistance so far, progress has slowed at the remaining six properties as volunteer numbers have declined in the past week.

First-time BlazeAid volunteer Jim Schaefer said he learned about the group through a friend who was also taking part in the Seymour camp.

“David [Hawkins] said to me ‘I’m on this thing called BlazeAid, we’re going to be in Seymour and we repair and replace fencing’,” he said.

“I looked it up online and thought I’d give it a go. I did some more research and some of the work they’re doing is not revolutionary, but it’s life changing.”

Mr Schaefer said it was his first time out building fences on a farm and was happy to be involved after driving his caravan to Seymour from his home in Mornington.

“For me, it’s unusual because I don’t have a livestock background,” he said.

“These [farmers] just don’t have the time or sometimes the energy, and some of these things are relatively minor jobs but they can’t get contractors to do it.”

Last week’s work took Mr Schaefer and a team of volunteers to a Paul Clemence’s Tallarook property, which had fencing on one of its livestock paddocks badly damaged during last year’s floods.

Mr Clemence said he had known about BlazeAid through the Black Saturday bushfires and other disasters, but did not know about the Seymour camp until he saw a post on the Tallarook Community Group on Facebook.

“We saw they were coming in, so we went to one of the rural stores and put in our expression of interest and eventually got contacted for an assessment,” he said.

“It takes a huge amount of work off. It’s normally just me out here by myself trying to do it all, I’ve got two young kids and so forth at school and I don’t get the time when we’re home, so it takes a huge amount of stress and workload off me as well.”

Property owner Paul Clemence, left, BlazeAid committee member Andrew Gibson and volunteer Graeme Allen put in a new fence post. ​

For properties to be registered for assistance, owners must first submit an expression of interest to BlazeAid before a camp coordinator visits the property to assess for work required and any potential risks.

Property owners will need to supply any materials required for works to be completed, including fence posts and wire.

Volunteers can set up tents or caravans at the camp, and are provided with full support and training, as well as safety briefings and meals every day.

Mr Schaefer encouraged anyone interested to try volunteering with BlazeAid.

“There are already a lot of people in the community who volunteer for a whole stack of things like hospital visits, Rotary and Lions,” Mr Schaefer said.

“You need to be fairly fit, and you need to have the energy to dig and put in fencing posts. I would think anyone under the age of 70 would be ideal and you can choose how long you stay, you can do it for a day or a week or whatever suits you.

“I’d say just investigate it, they’re really nice people that are professionally run and you’re giving back to the community.”

For more information or to register as a volunteer, people can email seymour@blazeaid.com.au or call the camp coordinators on 0484 942 753.

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