Tathra resident digs up memories from burned home with Team Rubicon

When the bushfire forced Catherine Tetley and husband Donald to evacuate their Tathra unit on Sunday, March 18, they left behind a home filled with generations of family memories. 

The Tetley’s home was one of the 65 homes destroyed by the blaze.

Just over a week later, Ms Tetley stood in her driveway watching on as members of disaster response agency Team Rubicon sifted through roof tiles and rubble and pulled out fragments of memories from her home. 

“It’s hard, but think this doing me good because the reality is starting to sink in now.”

Catherine tetley, Tathra resident

Vintage items such as a tricycle, a Singer sewing machine, Mr Tetly’s impressive collection of film cameras and even a saxophone were recovered from the house and layed out on sheets before Ms Tetley. 

“My husband rode that tricycle when he was a kid, so did our kids, and then their kids, it would have been at least 70 years old,” Ms Tetley said. 

As each item was brought to the driveway, they evoked a memory in Ms Tetley, such as in intricate ceramic jar decorated with a red and gold dragon image.

“This was part of a tea set we bought from Sydney, I remember it was just a few years after we married,” she said.

Tears formed in Ms Tetley’s eyes as she held damaged watches and jewelry belonging to her relatives. 

“It’s hard, but think this doing me good because the reality is starting to sink in now,” she said.

“I needed to do this, I’ll probably have to throw most of it out, but it’s closure to see everything again.”

Ms Tetley asked Team Rubicon to help her uncover her grandfathers medals and other prized possessions left behind in the fire. 

“I thought I was meeting them to do a quick check of the house, but they’ve spent hours helping me,” she said. 

“I wouldn’t know where to start with a job like this, I’m so glad they’re here.”

Members of Team Rubicon have worked in other disaster areas, such as Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey and Proserpine, Queensland after Cyclone Debbie, since they formed in 2017.

The disaster response team is made up of former army and emergency services workers. Tathra is the first fire they have responded to.