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8 June 2020
It’s been a horrid few weeks for David, a pensioner. Not only is he grieving the loss of his mother, but the whole trip has turned into a lengthy and costly experience, one he and Helen didn’t have the resources to deal with.
First, on the way over, they were forced to make a long detour due to bushfires at Norseman, south of Kalgoorlie. This cost them extra money in fuel. Then, their car broke down, adding another expense to the trip. Finally, on their way home from the funeral, the same fires had grown and blocked the Eyre Highway altogether, stranding David and Helen in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
“We spent all our fuel money for getting back [home] on food and accommodation. We were paying for a tent site in no shade and that was $36 a night and it has been getting above 40 degrees here in the day,” said David. After several days of this, David knew he was going to need assistance.
“It came to a crisis point where I couldn’t do it anymore [by myself] and I was starting to stress about how we were going to get home,” he said.
After securing an advance payment on his pension, the staff at Centrelink gave him a list of agencies that might be able to offer further assistance. The Salvation Army’s address was on the list and when David and Helen walked into the cool of the air-conditioned Kalgoorlie-Boulder Corps soon afterwards, they were greeted warmly by Corps Officers Lieutenants Gavin and Jodie Jones.
“One of the things we’ve been able to do is provide a place of refuge,” said Jodie about their decision to keep the corps open every day to offer stranded travellers assistance. “They can come in, sit down in the air-conditioning, use our bathroom and laundry facilities and have a much-needed chat.”
For David and Helen, it was a godsend. “Nearly every five minutes I’m nearly in tears because the help is just great,” he said. “My girlfriend was getting blood noses because of the heat and she was pretty much dehydrated, so Jodie sorted a few things out and got us accommodation.
“There was nothing left in the bank and ... Jodie gave us some shampoo and conditioner and a voucher [for fuel]. She gave us some washing powder and I’ve just used their washing machine, which saves me about $20 in washing. So, she helped out with that and she sent us down to the Foodbank and they couldn’t be any more helpful. They gave us a box of food.
“Everyone in town is sort of helping each other, do you know what I mean?”
David has fond memories of The Salvation Army from when he volunteered with Victoria’s Country Fire Association (CFA). He says the local Salvation Army Emergency Services (SAES) team would deliver meals to his crew during bushfires. Now, he says, he has even more respect for the Salvos: “You couldn’t ask for any better help.”