Two and a half years after the Black Summer bushfires, these survivors still have no homes
It has been two and a half years since the tragic Black Summer bushfires that ravaged parts of North East Victoria and Gippsland and for some the recovery has not gone as planned.
- Alice and Greg Albert are among many couples rebuilding their homes after the 2019-20 bushfires
- Problems plaguing the construction industry are causing major delays for bushfire victims
- It has been proposed that modular homes be used for crisis accommodation or for short-term accommodation to fill gaps in labor shortages.
Greg Albert and his wife Alice are rebuilding after losing most of their belongings when their home in Cudgewa was completely destroyed in the 2019-2020 bushfires.
The couple were on a silo art tour in Bendigo when news of the fire reached them.
“We got a call from our daughter-in-law that the fire was coming,” Mr Albert said.
“I drove seven hours home and spoke to the coordinator and she told me to get in the fire truck and put on your boots and gear and I drove until I can no longer drive.”
While defending his property with the help of a few other townspeople, the sheep shearer recalled the moment he knew his property could not be saved.
“Everything was on, 360 degrees around us,” he said.
“I had 130 rolls of hay along the fence and they just went ‘poof’. They didn’t even burn, they were just gone.
Ms. Albert had left earlier to seek shelter.
“I know how dangerous it can get, so we just knew we had to get out and that’s what we planned to do,” she said.
“There was no flames, nothing… It was really brown and gray, there was no glow [when I left].”
The couple were reunited some time later, when Ms. Albert heard the news from their home.
“He had nothing to say, I knew the house was gone,” she said.
The couple lived in a trailer on their property before moving into the mowing shed, miraculously spared from the fire.
“I didn’t want to go anywhere else, I wanted to go home,” Mr Albert said.
About six months later, as part of a Victorian government initiative, the couple received a one-bedroom modular home, where they have lived ever since.
“I knew that if we didn’t have [the modular home] we would still be in the shearing shed because there would be no way Greg would leave here,” Ms Albert said.
They signed building contracts before the end of the year and in June 2020 the slab was cut ready for the construction of their new home.
They expected it to be finished and live there six months ago, but have been hit with constant delays and issues facing the building industry.
“It didn’t go as planned,” Albert said.
“The modular has been very convenient for us but our house is in limbo.
The Alberts ‘not alone’ in their fight
This week, Victoria’s Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes visited the Alberts’ property, where she heard their story and said she knew they were not alone.
“There have been a lot of consequences, whether it’s related to the pandemic or just a shortage of materials, the inability to find trades people, especially in remote parts of Victoria, it’s a challenge standing,” she said.
While the couple expected to be in the modular home for some time to come, the government was already considering its potential future purpose.
She said local councils have offered to use them as short-term accommodation to tackle labor issues and shortages of skilled workers or as crisis accommodation for people fleeing domestic violence or the homeless. shelter.
“Wherever they go, they will continue to bring benefits to the community,” Ms Symes said.