It’s an expression that resonates with Australians, especially in the hardest of times. And our recent summer certainly qualifies as one of those.
At a time when we should have been enjoying the company of our family, and gearing up for the peak tourist season, fire raged through the region, devastating the communities of Wye River and Separation Creek who bore the brunt of its fury.
But the people and places of the Otway’s are much-loved, so mates weren’t in short supply.
Immediately, fundraising efforts swung into action. Driven by the Bendigo Bank branches of Apollo Bay, Anglesea, and Winchelsea, along with their Lorne Agency, donations from across the country rained down.
From the outside, the Surf Coast appeared to return to some semblance of normality within a fortnight. Tourists began to return to the region, and the media moved on to cover the equally overwhelming bushfires in Western Australia.
But within the region the painful task of sifting through the ashes of damaged and destroyed homes had started, and the realisation of what had been lost was only just beginning to sink in.
Mates would need to be in it for the long haul.
It may have been decades since a disaster of this scale had visited our region, but our communities aren’t new to looking out for each other.
It’s this kind of commitment that led to small groups of volunteers along the Surf Coast banding together to open Bendigo Bank Community Bank® branches.
Each is backed by hundreds of local shareholders, and thousands of community-minded customers. The result? Hundreds of thousands of dollars being returned to their communities via grants, donations, and sponsorships to local groups.
Nationally, the Community Bank® movement has seen more than 300 communities return over $148 million in contributions, with millions more being prised from all levels of government.
For many communities, these branches have meant the difference between barely surviving, and thriving.
Emergency services have always been a popular beneficiary of the profits made by Bendigo Bank Community Bank® branches.
Using funds granted by the Apollo Bay & District Community Bank® Branch, the Wye River CFA purchased a new firefighting pump. Its importance over those horrific days in late December can’t be overestimated.
The Apollo Bay CFA recently received donations totalling $7,000 as a result of the
Fundraising efforts of the Apollo Bay & District Community Bank® Branch. The
Brigade then utilised those funds towards their efforts to obtain specialised tough terrain firefighting equipment, essential in the Otway’s less accessible areas.
Simple, but significant gestures just like this are repeated countless times across Australia each year.
And while state firefighting units and SES (including Colac’s SES team) have received funding for vital new equipment, there has been no better example of the power of Bendigo Bank’s Community Bank® model than the story of the Anglesea Fire Brigade’s station redevelopment.
In 2013, they became one of Australia’s most environmentally friendly stations. Solar and wind energy now account for 100% of the electricity used in the state-of-the-art building, while water tanks harvest rainwater which supply the entire station.
To achieve their goal, a fundraising target of close to $2 million was set. For a small community the likes of Anglesea, it was going to test even the canniest fundraiser.
The Anglesea and Winchelsea Community Bank® Branch’s quickly committed $100,000 to the project. With the broader Anglesea community and CFA each adding $350,000, the state government was approached and $1 million in funding secured.
The station stands as a reminder that people with a purpose can make great things happen.
It’s comforting, and enormously humbling to know that there are friends, neighbours, and complete strangers willing to risk their lives to protect our little piece of the world.
And while you might not know one end of a fire truck from the other, that doesn’t mean you can’t play a role in ensuring those that do have the resources they need.
That support could be a simple as banking with your local Community Bank® Branch.
Ultimately, we’re all in this together.
Photo Credit: Ian Bett