Before the bushfires hit and wiped David Crooke out, in November 2019, destroying his humble home, possessions and all his work gear (the tools of his trade, a carpentry / building business), he was already a well known 2nd generation local from Batemans Bay, NSW South Coast.
David was (and is) loved and admired for always being there for others, his work ethic and his huge heart.
During the bushfires he became a local hero, an absolute legend for his bravery in saving other people's homes. His generosity was acknowledged by many as he gave freely of his own time and limited resources. He went the extra mile to ensure people were looked after with donated goods and basic provisions.
David and his team of knowledgeable locals sought out those who couldn't make it to the relief centres and other points of help. People who like had lost everything. Many had no money, no ID, no fuel, no cars and no food.
They went out in still dangerous conditions to the back streets, the rural towns and communities of the NSW South Coast, simply doing what ever they could.
Now, in the aftermath, after months of giving David stands with almost nothing and without a clear path for his own recovery.
UPDATE March 2020 - New Direction:
The struggle for continued survival hasn't been easy and David and his team have continued to focus on helping others as well as beginning to establish the roots of a new business direction.
The bAy TEAM has been formed with a clear mission to dedicate time & effort towards community recovery providing low cost moveable accommodation for property owners who wish to live on their properties and farms while rebuilding or to save rental money as they gather strength for their next stages of life.
If you or somebody you know is looking for a comfortable temporary home (shelter before winter sets in), check out the cabins & sheds the bAy TEAM can offer.
LOCALS SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES
The bAy TEAM Website
David was confident that funding for bushfire relief would be available to him and his small business when his attention returned from saving houses and helping others. Little did he expect to be treated as an absolute nothing, a nobody who was not eligible for any assistance whatsoever!
David is not the only one in this devastating predicament. People who have lost everything and suffered greatly as a result of the brutal bushfires that hurtled through the Australian landscape are left standing alone. They are people who just don't tick all the boxes.
The photo above is David's Ute and trailer, this is all he has left in the way of worldly goods. He was fortunate to have it, with this vehicle and the mere basics of fire fighting equipment David & his mates saved 7 homes this season.
David lost his home and possessions, he lost his work gear, tools, safety equipment, scaffolding and secure storage unit in Braidwood in November 2019. David has survived so far by using all his meagre savings and resources and through the generosity of friends, family and complete strangers, but for any proud independent person survival is not enough.
It is now February 2020 and David is trying to get back to work in his small Carpentry / Building business.
David has a crew of 6 others depending on him for their ongoing livelihood. They have the work, they don't have the gear.
Many of David's crew also had huge losses as a result of the bushfires, all lost their source of income and some are in the same boat as David - not deemed eligible for either government OR charity funding.
See update >>
No doubt you have already given generously to help people just like David, maybe you gave to many bushfire appeals. Maybe you were hoping that your donations would really make a difference in real people's lives?
Maybe you have heard of similar cases and the dilemma of funding being withheld, diverted or just not getting through to those that need it most.
If you do have the resources to be able to donate a little more then this is one cause that is worthy. David himself has never asked for help, he doesn't blow his own trumpet and believes there are people worse off than himself. If you can help then please don't hesitate as you will not just be offering a hand out but a hand up to 7 people and their families. Hardworking men who just want to get on and earn their way as they always have.
As the media coverage switches attention away from the ongoing problems created by the Australian Bushfires, many survivors are still wondering where the huge amounts of promised recovery funding have gone.
Massive contributions have been made by generous donors through all sorts of fundraising efforts and the work of volunteer charitable organisations. But, the funding is running out. There is still so much tied up in red tape or being rededicated for the future or other needs.
Some help given has even been detrimental to the ongoing recovery of local economies.
While a lot of assistance has been given, in many cases it is just too little too late or hasn't been accessible at all. For example; the promised Government Grants for small businesses recovery. To date (12/3/2020) 104 applications have been submitted and only 5 have been approved!
People are losing hope of help and turning their attention to pulling themselves back together on their own or from within their own communities. This is healthy and has indeed been happening right from the beginning, but the ongoing trauma makes it very very hard.
More attention should be given to using and supporting local businesses and suppliers who are ready to go with helping rebuild their own towns.
Have a read of David A Crooke's thoughts about the Fire Relief Concert. We sing and say love, unity and help... but what does a bushfire hero and victim feel about it?
Reflections from David in response to the Fire Fight Australia Concert on the 16th Feburary 2020 at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney NSW:
As I sat there late last night listening to some of the lovely songs that soothed my soul playing through my TV from the Fire Relief Concert, I started to wonder if people really realise what is going on.
The stark reality is brutal for all those who have been affected by this seasons horrific bushfires.
The long reaching devastation affects people on a physical, mental and financial level. The symptoms of PTSD are evident in more than half the people in my own home town of Batemans Bay in varying degrees.
We should have a mobile strike force of mental health teams on the ground. I don't have all the answers all I can see is my own struggle and those of my mates and neighbours.
We are told, go stand in this que, call this number, go to the local hospital, see your local GP... Does nobody understand how hard that is? Does anybody understand what it does to a suicidal person to hear somebody say, "well it is evident you are not going to kill yourself today, you are doing so well, this will pass, be on your way"?
I hear to many stories of this happening and just wonder when real help will come, what people have to do to be heard.
Back to this "Relief" Concert and it's messages of unity, hope, love and understanding. I understand that the funds collected by the concert were for distribution to
a) The Red Cross
c) National program FRRR for slow release to community leaders with identified needs arising in a year or two, mostly focused on preparing for the next bout of emergency they face.
Oh also, some immediate needs like school uniforms etc.
There is a general feeling in bushfire affected areas that the Red Cross (and other charitable organisations) have not yet scratched the surface of the needs of individuals, businesses and communities and the people who actually need help now.
On reading ALL of the information about where funding will go from this concert am I to form the conclusion it is not really for the relief of current needs, but rather some esoteric and worthwhile contribution to Australian emergency response and recovery in times to come.
I might just be confused, but reading the publicity and the marketing bylines I really thought funds raised would actually go directly into helping those impacted NOW by the terrible 2019 / 2020 bushfire season. I don't see that it will at all..
The animals are already dead, already stressed communities and volunteers are doing the work and the government and charitable millions are too delayed, wrapped in red tape to be of use. Wouldn't it have been better to bill this as "let's plan for the future" rather than "bushfire relief"?
In the meanwhile, back in the real world where we ARE grateful for any and all help given our key cry is - We want to be heard, we want the real needs of our loved ones, our families, our communities, our farmers to be understood.
We don't want an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, we want to see loving arms outstretched to prevent the falls at the top. As communities and neighbours we have been doing this, but heck! our arms are mighty tired.
I am just one of many and after almost 3 months after losing my own home I experienced a complete panic attack out of the blue. Where was my invite to the warm embrace of this concert? I'm sorry, I am not feeling the love.
Written by David A Crooke and Aunty D - 7th Feb 2020.
The video below was made by David as he watched the concert from his temporary accommodation after losing everything.
Property and homes saved while others lost to bushfires NSW Australia
Getting Ready to Save Houses West of Moruya
Hardworking men on the job - construction site.