The Benalla Uniting Church Emergency Fencing Team celebrated the handover of a Polaris All Terrain Vehicle, trailer and much-needed tractor equipment at Thoona in April. The fencing team was formed as a response to the Black Saturday fires in 2009. The widespread devastation of the fires prompted a practical response from Alan Stafford and volunteers from Benalla, who replaced fences and cleaned up properties affected by the bushfires. The word spread and volunteers from all over Victoria and other states joined the team.
The fencing team includes farmers, service organisations, inmates from correctional centres, asylum seekers, school groups, people local to the area of the damage and many more. Initially set up by Goulburn North East Presbytery, Benalla Uniting Church has now taken over administration for the group. SHARE has also supported the group throughout the years.
Bronwyn Pitty is the secretary of Benalla Uniting Church. She said that while mending fences was important, the true value of the team’s work was difficult to measure.
“The fencing work allows relationships to develop between volunteers and those affected by disaster,” Ms Pitty said. “The trauma resulting from a disaster can begin to heal when others show they care.”
At first the team borrowed equipment and over time raised enough funds for a trailer full of gear. At times it was possible to borrow a tractor, but the ideal was to have a tractor that the team could call its own. To work towards purchasing a tractor fund raising events such as concerts with Greg Champion were held. Other funds came in from private donations and the generosity of community organisations.
Ms Pitty said the generosity of the community has enabled the team to carry on their work.
“This was made possible because of the generosity of Rotary International District 9790,” Ms Pitty said.
“Rotary was made aware of the Emergency Fencing Team and their work and were able to help. An All-Terrain Vehicle was purchased for the team locally in Benalla. A trailer purchased from Shepparton was made to the Team’s specifications. Rotary supplemented the funds already saved so the team could purchase the tractor the Team needed. The new tractor and ATV will enable the team to replace fences in otherwise inaccessible terrain.”
Thoona received the services of the Fire Fencing Team 16 months ago. Those present at the April handover included Rotary District Governor, Richard Luke, local Rotary members, members of the Benalla Parish of the Uniting Church, Emergency Fencing Team members, locals and equipment suppliers.
“It was a fantastic day,” Ms Pitty said. “A day of celebration, a day of hope and prayer realised in God’s time.”