SA Farmers Recovery & Reconnect Tour: Rebuilding lives after bushfires

At the heart of every person is a unique and valuable story. It’s crucial that we never lose sight of the individual behind the narrative.

The SA Farmers Recovery & Reconnect KI Tour was delivered on Kangaroo Island from March 6-9 with a touring party of 38 South Australian Farmers impacted by the Pinery (2015), Yumali/Netherton (2020), Freeling (2020) Eden Valley (2013), and Cudlee Creek (2019) fires.

Following the success of the 2021 Kangaroo Island Farmers tour to Pinery, funding was generously provided by grants from the NAB Foundation ($35,000) and the State Emergency Relief Fund ($20,000), together with PIRSA and the Red Cross.

The additional funding allowed RBS to include a comprehensive tour of fire impacted farms and small businesses along the North Coast Road to Stokes Bay as well as Western Kangaroo Island. The aim was for farmers to continue healing by sharing their unique challenges and recovery following significant bushfire events.

The tour was co-designed by Mon Saunders, RBS, Lyn Dohle, PIRSA/AgKI and Joe Tippett, Red Cross and promoted through RBS Staff, the Ag Bureau, PIRSA FaBs, Landcare Aust, Ag KI, and the CWA SA.

From welcome packs to community dinners and guest speakers, including John Mannion, CEO, Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation, the tour was a holistic and nurturing experience.

Mental Health First Aiders from Junction Australia ensured the touring party were scaffolded as they reminisced and shared experiences.

Rural Business Support it proud to have facilitated this project through the Relief Fund, which was launched in July last year to provide practical and immediate relief to farming families who are struggling or suffering financial distress due to adverse events or natural disasters beyond their control.

To make a tax-deductible donation to the Relief Fund please click here.

Quotes to be attributed as follows:

Brett Smith, CEO, Rural Business Support:

The SA Farmers Recovery & Reconnect Tour came about at the request of the Kangaroo Island Farmers who visited the Pinery fire ground in 2021. They identified that an important ongoing step in their recovery was a reciprocal tour where they could share their unique challenges – and learnings – as they rebuilt after the fire.

The courage of farmers like Jo and John Symonds, Sam and Helen Mumford, Rick and Annie Morris, Ben and Sabrina Davis, Steven Childs and Simon Kelly was inspirational – ordinary people who have overcome often extraordinary challenges.

We are incredibly grateful to Joe Paparella and the NAB Foundation who recognise that communities need help to recover before, during and after natural disasters and offered RBS the opportunity to reimagine this tour and its potential for positive impact across multiple fire impacted communities.

Lyn Dohle (PIRSA/ AgKI) and Joe Tippett (Red Cross) were invaluable partners in codesigning the program for the tour. Their generosity of time and knowledge enabled us to capture the essence of the fire event, while ensuring our approach focussed on the overall wellbeing of the Kangaroo Island presenters and our touring party.

Michael Pengilly, Mayor, Kangaroo Island Council

The tour was a powerful step forward as we continue to rebuild our farming communities following the 2019/20 fires.

By bringing South Australian fire impacted farmers together in a safe space to share their experiences, RBS has raised awareness of the impact of long-term trauma and the need for ongoing community connection and mental health support.

Joe Tippett, Acting SA Recovery Coordinator Emergency Services, Red Cross, Kangaroo Island 2019/20

It was such a pleasure to get to know everyone and share my recovery journey with the group. I would like to thank you for inviting the Red Cross to be part of such a successful event.

 Ben and Sabrina Davis
– Attendees of the Pinery Tour 2021, Presenters of the
SA Farmers Recovery & Reconnect Tour

Ben: “Our family originally joined the 2021 Pinery tour to see what people have done following a disaster, what changes they had implemented and where they were at five years on. I didn’t expect to have such profound conversations around insurance and take-home incredible learnings that normally aren’t mentioned in official bushfire recovery communication.

“We chose to be involved in the KI tour 2023 because we got so much value from our visit and believed someone else could benefit from hearing about our journey. Even years on, you can see how much of an effect a disaster can have and still has on people. We are all experiencing a similar range of emotions and more needs to be done to help people and deal with the psychological impact.”

Sabrina: “When our family was offered to visit the Pinery region six years after their fire event, we found ourselves in the depth of our own disaster recovery and appreciated the opportunity to get away. The experience gave us great hope and confidence that we can work through challenging times individually and as a community and come out stronger at the other end. Affected farmers opened their properties and homes to us with welcoming arms. They authentically shared their lived experience, inspiring many of us from Kangaroo Island to follow suit with some amazing projects.

“It was very important to KI people to return the favour and give back in a way that could uplift others and connect to other disaster-affected communities. The Recovery and Reconnect tour was an important step in our ongoing recovery and for the ones who visited.

 David Fatchen, Pinery Fire 2015:

We feel most fortunate and grateful for the opportunity to have had this wonderful experience with your team. It was valuable to all of us to share and see evidence of improvement in approach and response to these unfortunate occurrences.

A special thank you to all the funders and organisers on a well-run tour. We will continue to be inspired by the stories and people we met. A life-changing experience, and we thank you with all our heart.