AFTER the 2003-2004 Gippsland fires Piggoreet farmer and Gold Bus driver, Ian Getsom, felt the need to help those who had been affected.
Helping was not new to him or his family, who have volunteered in the local district for many years.
The Gippsland fires brought out the best in many people and they gave whatever they could to those impacted. Ian wanted to help in a practical way and set about putting together a band of volunteers who would travel to Gippsland and re-erect fences.
This small group was the forerunner to BlazeAid. For his efforts Ian was presented with a certificate of appreciation from the VFF and was the inaugural winner of the VFF volunteer award.
While these are proudly displayed in his home, the greater achievement is knowing that he has helped. “You volunteer not because you want a thank you. You do it because you care for people, I’ve seen people suffer in Gippsland, I’ve seen how they’ve been treated by different governments and you just feel you have to help them because nobody else is helping them and I thought I could do it, I knew I could, but then it was a big thing when I started it, I’d let myself in for a big job,” he said. “The volunteers who came with me were from here – Carranballac, Streatham, Ballarat, I did three trips and the Golden Plains Shire was very good to us – and I had probably 20 plus blokes each trip and some of those blokes went on every trip.” Since that first trip to Gippsland some members from that original band of volunteers have erected fences along Snake Valley and more recently in the Scotsburn fires. “We are just like brothers who help people when the chips are down we fire up,” Ian added said matterof-factly.
I’m not sure whether he and his ‘brothers’ realise the difference they make to peoples’ lives.
The latest recipient of help from the group, Murray Arnel, does and still gets choked up speaking about the help he and his family received.
“I have known Murray for a long time and we’ve worked together in the livestock industry, he is a lovely bloke,” Ian said. “I organised a livestock reunion in Ballarat only last year and Murray was one of the first to support me and say I’ll be there. What can I do to help?
“So I phoned Murray (after Scotsburn fires) and asked what I could do to help. I said what we do Murray is we rebuild your fences, we also help you with your welfare because we talk, how I put it? … bull dust.” Ian is a firm believer in a problem shared is a problem halved.
“We really let our hair down, Murray was there, his wife was there and some of their family, and we were telling jokes and laughing, not making light of the tragedy but making the tragedy a bit lighter,” Ian said. “I would really like to thank the following for their invaluable help Tim Cooke of Linton Park who loaned us a tractor and a post banger – without those we can’t fence; Mick Molloy from Dial-A-Box – he transported the tractor and machine free of charge, both ways; Ballarat Meat Company – who fed us; Midvale IGA; Moorabool Shire; Ron Harper from Elgas Ballarat who supplied the portable barbeque and gas; Stock and Land (Fairfax media); Graeme Howell from Avoca brought down a lot of gear and steel post driver; Roger brothers from Neerim Neerim; and Colin Smith from Carranballac.” Murray was at a loss as to how to thank the many people who came to help, “What I would like to say is that the response to Ian’s effort to get people was overwhelming to my wife Cheryl and myself, the property was left in a very bad state after the fire had gone through and the fences, in particular, were badly hit.
“For Ian and his group and all the others who turned up, just overwhelmed us, the amount of time they have put in and the effort that they have in to help us on the road to recovery.”