With the outbreak of COVID-19 making 2020 a long and arduous year for people around the world, Australia also battled the most severe bushfires in its history. The aftermath of these fires devasted many communities around Australia, and the rebuilding process is still underway.

Adrienne Steward has been leading the charge here in Yass with her efforts to help those affected by the fires. Mrs Steward founded the Yass Bushfire Relief Centre, and long after the smoke lifted, has continued to this day, providing aid where she can to people suffering from the disaster.

It is now coming up on 12 months since the fires destroyed many homes and business’ and people are still rebuilding. One such family is the Bellchambers family in Batlow who lost everything in the January fires.

Steve Bellchambers reached out to Mrs Steward for assistance which prompted her to begin a GoFundMe page to raise money for them.

Steve Bellchambers Photo Credit – Regrow Batlow

“I set up a go fund me page because that was the quickest way to get something up and running and for people who are not local to be able to donate,” said Ms Steward. “Because of COVID restrictions, it’s hard to do a big fundraising dinner or anything like that.”

The Bellchambers through insurance and government grants fell $40,000 short of the required funds to rebuild their family home. The home must be under building contract by the 20th of December, or they will miss the funding window the government provides.

The current money they have received from the government and insurance will only provide a shed conversion home which will not provide enough room for their entire family. The Bellchambers currently have six children, four of their own and two foster children in their care.

Foster children legally need access to their own rooms, and the Bellchambers had plans to take in more before the fires hit. Without access to the money, it will hinder their future work with foster children. It would also mean that their two eldest children would need to move out of the home.

The Bellchambers not only lost their house when the fires hit but also their business. However, the Yass Valley Times has been told the insurance they received for their business will go towards building a multipurpose facility in Batlow. This new facility will act as an evacuation point which they previously did not have in the town. It will be solar-powered and have water tanks accessible to the emergency services. The plan is for the facility to run training courses, community markets, and be a HUB for the community.

Unfortunately, the Bellchambers cannot use the insurance money they received for their business to rebuild their home.

“Helping them out helps the community. Rebuilding the house for them is not just about their family. They have plans to take in more at-risk children and foster kids,” said Mrs Steward.

During the relief efforts at the height of the Bushfires, Mrs Steward was donated space at a warehouse which provided a location to take physical donations. Food, water and emergency supplies were collected from the public, and several companies also got on board.

“We sent four or five semi-trailers of goods to the Batlow Tumut region, plus about a dozen car fulls as well,” said Mrs Steward.

“One of the companies that helped was Step One, and they donated a couple of hundred pairs of undies for the Firies. We basically serviced a little bit of the south coast but mainly the Batlow, Tumut, Snowy Mountain region.”

Mrs Steward said at the peak of their efforts, around 70 people volunteered ranging from just popping in to help out, to people putting in eight hours a day.

“It’s important that we don’t forget about these people who lost everything 12 months ago because a lot has happened this year,” said Mrs Steward

Yass Bushfire Relief Centre

At the time of writing this article, the GoFundMe page has raised just over $3000, which is still a long way short of the $40,000 goal. Mrs Steward is hoping for businesses to become more involved to reach the goal before the 20th of December.

If you would like to donate money to this cause, you can visit the GoFundMe page, ‘Help the Bellchambers rebuild!’. Alternatively, you can visit the Yass Bushfire Relief Centre Facebook page which will direct you to the GoFundMe page. If you have any questions, Mrs Steward can be contacted at stewardess@tpg.com.au

Feature Photo Adrienne Steward – Photo Credit –  Margan Photography

Ryan Betts