Mar 30th 2021

New GetUp documentary shows resilience of bushfire survivors abandoned by the Government

A new documentary released today reveals the strength and determination of Black Summer bushfire survivors who are still enduring horrific conditions — more than a year after Scott Morrison promised billions in recovery funding that is still largely unspent.

The Aftermath tells the stories of people like Sherylle Holster, a Gippsland woman living with disability who has been organising and delivering care packages for struggling survivors for the past year — all without help or funding from the Federal Government. 

Judith and Paul Collins have lived in a shed ever since they lost their home to the fires on the NSW south coast. For the past year, they've lived in darkness, without lights or windows. Others were given canvas tents to live in, in the middle of winter.

With many Black Summer communities now reeling from the NSW floods, The Aftermath shines a light on the Federal Government's woeful response to communities impacted by the worsening effects of climate change. The release of the documentary also marks the launch of GetUp's new campaign for a polluter-funded National Climate Compensation Fund to help survivors of natural disasters worsened by climate instability.

The Aftermath follows on from Smokescreen, the groundbreaking Per Capita report, commissioned by GetUp, that made headlines in January when it revealed that more than half of the $2.47 billion promised for bushfire recovery by Scott Morrison is still unspent.

GetUp National Director Paul Oosting said:

"More than a year on from the Black Summer bushfires, it's unbelievable that people are still living in tents and caravans. It's appalling that people with almost nothing are having to rely on each other, rather than on a Federal Government that promised to help them. 

“The Morrison Government has a mounting track record of failing to deliver on spending promises. It's shameful that more than $1 billion earmarked for bushfire recovery remains unspent.

"By helping people like Sherylle and Judith tell their stories, we're hoping that the Morrison Government will feel pressure to deliver what they promised and help these people out of this awful situation. 

"Climate change is going to make disasters like the Black Summer bushfires and the recent floods more severe and more frequent. The Government needs to accept this reality and establish a National Climate Compensation Fund, paid for by the corporations responsible for the bulk of carbon emissions, that helps survivors get back on their feet.

"Black Summer survivors deserve our respect. It's long past time they were given the money and support they deserve."

Bushfire survivor and Gippsland community volunteer Sherylle Holster said:

"I started helping people out after people told me they were desperate for food, that they felt forgotten. And I have to say they were.

"It’s been going for 12 months and I think it’s going to go for a lot longer. We thought it may have slowed down a little bit since the fires, but in actual fact the help is actually required more now. 

"If we didn't do it, who was going to? I'm not getting paid. Your government officials are being paid to do this work, so why am I still doing it?

"You can't listen to all the stories of people struggling without it affecting you, and it has affected me. I can't carry the load on my own and I shouldn't have to. Our government should be doing a lot more to support these people. Why am I — a pensioner, with a cancer sufferer and a diabetic — why are we having to do the work?"

NSW South Coast bushfire survivors Judith and Paul Collins said:

"If we relied on the government to help us, we’d be homeless, hungry, angry, and suicidal. We couldn’t rely on any organisation, any system, any government, to help out. So we decided to take control. 

"If you’ve got savings, you will watch them disappear. If you’ve got insurance, you will watch it be spent in ways you don’t want it being spent. There is no one you can go to for help. You have to try and weasel information out of all these different sources.

"But all these disasters just made us more determined to take control of our life. When the fire hit us on three fronts, we knew it was climate change. This is going to affect everyone."