Volunteers hop back from rebuilding trip

Volunteers hop back from rebuilding trip

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The WA Fencing Farmers team enjoying the experience on Kangaroo Island in their Minderoo Foundation sponsored high-viz shirts.

The WA Fencing Farmers team enjoying the experience on Kangaroo Island in their Minderoo Foundation sponsored high-viz shirts.

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Volunteers returned from Kangaroo Island after a successful trip to assist in the rebuild effort after devastating bushfires.

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WA Fencing Farmers volunteers have returned from Kangaroo Island, South Australia, after a successful trip to assist in the rebuild effort after devastating bushfires ravaged the island at the end of December/early January.

WA Fencing Farmers, lead by Hedland Export Depot manager Paul Brown and Arthur River farmer Sam Burgess, took 52 volunteers from WA across to the island to assist BlazeAid in efforts to rebuild essential fencing infrastructure.

Mr Brown said some had no farming or fencing experience but "could now work as fencing contractors".

The volunteers were from across WA and left Norseman in two separate convoys in February to stagger the number of people BlazeAid would need to cater and find accommodation for.

Mr Brown said "it was a huge success" and what made it so was the "fantastic support from the Minderoo Foundation, Great Southern Fuels and the Geraldton CRT, and everyone else who donated".

"We were able to deliver what we did because of their support," Mr Brown said.

"An enormous thanks to Sam Burgess and the rest of the volunteers - it wouldn't have been as successful without them."

Some of the volunteers stayed on the island for three to four weeks.

In the end BlazeAid reported that the efforts of the WA volunteers produced more than 100 kilometres of completed fence, including posts and Ringlock and in some cases double barb.

"I lost count but we also did somewhere in the order of 250 double gates hung," Mr Brown said.

"We rolled up tens of kilometres of fencing to clear the fencing lanes.

"The teams worked well together and some valuable friendships were made.

"We all made a reconnection with the people on Kangaroo Island and as a group we are very supportive of the idea of a 12-month reunion with the farmers to see how things are going.

"We built up a good rapport with the local community there and the pub, deli and bakery certainly appreciated the support."

WA Fencing Farmers received about $85,000 in cash donations, including $15,455 raised through a GoFundMe page.

Mr Brown said the funds would be transparently channelled to community groups on Kangaroo Island to help rebuild facilities that were lost in the fires, including sports clubs and a school.

Neil Ballard of Global Pasture Consultants, Narrogin, was one of the volunteers.

Dr Ballard said he couldn't speak highly enough of BlazeAid in the way it was organised and utilised its resources.

He said the "camaraderie" among WA volunteers was "an experience in itself".

"We all gelled together well," Dr Ballard said.

He said it was "hard, difficult work" rolling up the old fences but they managed to turn some into works of art as mementos for the locals.

Mr Brown said there was a desire among WA Fencing Farmers volunteers "to do more" - "and also a demand" in the Eastern States for more assistance.

"I've fielded a few calls to see if any of our teams were available to go across, possibly somewhere else, but it's coming up to a busy time of the year," he said.

While he didn't write it off, it appears WA Fencing Farmers may be more than just a one-off venture.

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