Surviving a natural disaster

Lucas lives down at Nowra, where he had a close call with the recent bushfires. He had quite a story to share…

The bushfires were a scary experience. Everyone from my area of south-western Nowra had to be evacuated. My next door neighbour was actually the one who knocked on my door and told me that the fire was very near and that I needed to go immediately. From that moment, everything went into hyperdrive.

This was all a very surreal experience. There was black smoke all over Nowra and at 3pm it seemed almost like night. There were ashes falling everywhere. Worrying about my home and my possessions was a great source of anxiety but I at least had insurance. The trickiest part was bringing my cat, Kissy. I had to find the cat crate while Kissy was bolting around everywhere. She was grumpy about being carried around in a cage but sometimes you have to be a little cruel to be kind.

I called Adam Muir, a Senior Peer Worker from Flourish Australia Nowra, to come and help me evacuate. The local evacuation centre was already full but the Flourish Australia office had been designated as a safe place to shelter. A couple of local community groups had been offered this refuge, so a few people spent the afternoon there. I stayed the night there along with Lucas and my cat.

The next day, I learned that the fires had come within a few hundred metres of my home. Luckily, my house hadn’t burned down and I didn’t lose anything. I was very, very fortunate.

I first connected with Flourish Australia’s Bathurst service when I lived at Oberon. For about 2 ½ years, since moving to Nowra, I’ve been accessing Flourish Australia services here. The staff support me from Monday to Friday each week.

I also access a separate home care organisation on Sundays. Through the NDIS I’ve been able to put a really good support package together.

Flourish Australia has been great. I trust them a lot. When I first arrived in Nowra, my mental health issues were making it extremely challenging for me to leave my unit. I had experienced the same issues while living in Oberon. This anxiety made evacuating during the fires especially stressful for me. I’ve  been working toward managing my anxiety, a little at a time. The staff all tell me how proud they are of how far I’ve come.

By Grant J Everett, Panorama magazine