Visiting Tathra recently, it was hard to imagine what the town must have looked like when the fire that destroyed so much was at its height.
Walking around the town, driving along some of the hardest hit streets and chatting with locals about the last couple of weeks, is at once humbling but also inspiring.
Whether it is the visible expressions of thanks to fire fighters and other volunteers, or footy grand final styled signs that summon the folk of Tathra to meet the massive challenges of cleaning up and re-building, there is an overwhelmingly positive spirit around the place.
While Easter Sunday is traditionally a big day for most South Coast towns, Tathra had traffic jams of people. They came to get lunch at notable local eateries like the historic Tathra Pub (the fire came to within metres of it), the wonderful old Tathra Wharf (it too threatened by fire just a few meters off) and the many cafes and restaurants along Andy Pool Drive, the road that lines the beach and was jumped by the fire as it destroyed cabins and caravans in the holiday park.
For many locals the Easter holiday was a time to continue the clean up and one organisation in particular was assisting in the regard.
While the Bega Valley Shire has made a substantial amount of money available to help set things right, one group of volunteers is helping to make some really useful progress.
Founded in the USA in 2010, Team Rubicon was the brainchild of two US veterans of the Iraq and Afghani conflicts, Jake Wood and William McNulty.
In the wake of the 7.8 earthquake that devastated Haiti in January of that year, the two felt called to bring their expertise, and that of other veterans, to the Haitian aid effort. Gathering supplies and volunteers, the small group of veterans, first responders, and medical professionals deployed to Haiti in the days following the earthquake.
Since then, Team Rubicon has expanded its operation to become an international NGO that establishes itself in host countries, then sets out to respond to emergencies in those countries especially.
Team Rubicon Australia is based in Brisbane, but calls on a membership from all over the country. In Tathra its members (known by first names only) have come from around the east and south coast, from places as diverse as Torquay in Victoria to north of Brisbane in Queensland – they even have a Texan on board. The Tathra operation is run out of the Boardroom of the Tathra Bowling Club, where a communication centre has been set up and requests for help are co-ordinated.
When their job in Tathra is over, many of the personnel are heading to Darwin to meet up with other Team Rubicon members who are assisting with flood recovery.
For one resident, Dave, whose house is still standing, but whose bush surrounded block is littered with fallen tress and dead bush, Team Rubicon has been a power of good.
“We’re truly blessed to still have our house but the job of getting rid of the trees and scrub has been huge,” he said.
“While neighbours have certainly been helping neighbours, there’s just so much to do and these guys have been a real Godsend.”