Fiona Pridemore with her family has joined the Central Highlands Flood Recovery Group in urging residents to apply for flood assistance.
Fiona Pridemore with her family has joined the Central Highlands Flood Recovery Group in urging residents to apply for flood assistance.

Appealing for victims

SWALLOW your pride and apply for flood assistance.

Just 183 applications have been received by the Neighbourhood Centre Appeal and Central Highlands Flood Recovery Group chairperson Kerry Hayes is pleading for more residents to apply for assistance.

“It is not a hand out, it is a hand up,” Councillor Hayes said.

Many residents were self-diagnosing their ineligibility for the assistance but the best way to learn if you are eligible, he said, was to apply.

“It is vital to the economic and social recovery of our community that everyone affected uses this assistance to help return to normal,” he said.

“The Premier’s fund is going to take a while, there are a lot of affected people from all over Queensland and the system needs to work through all applications, please don’t give up.

“There are other avenues for more immediate assistance and we need people to be proactive and access them.”

Natural disaster survivor and Gemfields resident Fiona Pridemore was urging all Central Highlanders to take the opportunity to register and receive financial help from the many avenues that were available.

“A lot of people don’t want to register for whatever reason,” Fiona said.

“Don’t let yourself get backed into a corner in a few months when you realise that you aren’t dealing with the trauma emotionally or financially.

“Get in and accept the help while it’s there, utilise it to make sure that you and your family are okay.”

Fiona knows only too well how far financial help can go toward rebuilding lives and communities.

A three-mile-wide tornado tore through her family home in Indiana, USA, the night before she, and her husband Ronnie and nine kids were to move back to Australia.

“A barbecue which could only be lifted by three or four people was flown across the paddock like a piece of paper… it was terrifying,” she said.

Surviving the tornado, Fiona and her family sought refuge back on home soil in Bendigo.

But that weather escape was short-lived when a freak tornado took form, blasting homes, shattering windows and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. And it only got worse from there.

The horrifying Black Saturday bushfires were on the horizon and, by a stroke of luck, left Fiona’s home standing.

However, if the wind hadn’t changed, her home and everything she owned would have been reduced to just smoke and embers.

“We jumped in the car, drove about 1.5km to find out where the fire was, and came straight home,” she said.

“I opened the door and got hit by a huge plume of black smoke and heat, like opening an oven and standing too close.

“People were running, people screaming, lights flashing… it was chaos and mayhem.”

Shelby, her daughter, was suffering regular asthma attacks from the smoke so Fiona and her husband, Ronnie, moved with the kids to Queensland, settling in Sapphire just months before the floods.

Proud of the community spirit and willingness to help a stranger, Fiona was shocked her neighbouring communities refused to apply for disaster funding relief after seeing firsthand the extent of damage around her.

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