REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Medical monoliths unnecessary, help would be good though

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Janine Graham.

South Arm hall: The nexus of a fire-ravaged community right now.

South Arm hall: The nexus of a fire-ravaged community right now.

Many a "welcome to country" resounded across the nation yesterday and many probably started a lot like Raylene Ballangarry's.

She began Australia Day ceremonies at Nambucca on the NSW Mid-North Coast simply: "I'd like to dedicate the welcome to country to the RFS, National Parks and all the volunteers."

Those words alone earned her a round of applause.

If only those words could encourage action. Not from any of the agencies named - they've done more than enough day after day for many months. But from the support agencies which are so desperately needed.

Let's cut straight to the chase: life is pretty grim right now for many parts of the valley (as it is across much of the nation for all manner of reasons).

It's like this: Beck Beverley lets the politicians know exactly what's what.

It's like this: Beck Beverley lets the politicians know exactly what's what.

Try these two stark quotes from a Nambucca Guardian article last week - 11 weeks after all hell broke loose in the west of valley.

"I feel embarrassed to admit this, but I think people need to hear it: I googled 'how to tie a noose'. I saw that I had an esky of beer and I selfishly said to myself 'Right, as soon as that's gone, I'm out, I'm done'."

Mercifully, this man's wife picked up that something wasn't right and intervened.

"Everyone feels let down and forgotten. The media is focussed down south now, and it feels like everyone thinks we're just done and dusted, and everything is just going back to normal now. But there is no normal. No-one understands the day-to-day reality these people are facing. There's still people in tents - tattered, old, shitty tents that are falling apart."

That last one is from Beck Beverley. A gentle one-woman support network who is remarkably holding together her community from the South Arm hall.

Right now It is part meeting place, part bathroom, part wardrobe, part pantry, part listening post.

And as helpful as that is, Beck knows it's not enough.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack (centre) gets the low-down at South Arm hall.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack (centre) gets the low-down at South Arm hall.

With people still batting pedantic insurance companies, living on the remnants of their ashen blocks without real shelter much less power, and existing without hope, she knows how dire it really is.

When she's asked mental health agencies to lend some in-person support she's been knocked back because "the consensus was it wasn't bad enough to warrant on-site help".

The go-to 21st century option of accessing services online was pretty pointless as, of course, there's no reception.

Equally pointless is drawing a line from the Nambucca Valley to Wuhan in China. But news that China is "quickly building" a 1000-bed hospital dedicated to patients infected with coronavirus is, frankly, staggering.

To their credit, Deputy PM Michael McCormack and the local man in Canberra, Pat Conaghan, have made it to South Arm. And they've spoken with Beck Beverley.

No-one's expecting a mega-medical monolith, just help. Here's hoping every community in need gets not just a "fact-finding mission" but follow-up - real action, in real time.

Janine Graham

digital news editor, ACM

PS: We want to know about more people like Beck. Let us know their names here

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