Not-for-profit disaster recovery group Team Rubicon has extended their stay in Tathra for another week to ensure as many residents as possible are assisted.
“We’ve still have 80 outstanding assessments, from clearing houses to doing welfare checks,” Team Rubicon Australia CEO Geoff Evans said on his April 4 visit to Tathra.
“We will be here for three weeks now, so we’re able to go beyond damage assessment, it’s about emotional support too.”
Mr Evans met with Bega Valley Shire Mayor Kirsty McBain, recovery coordinator Euan Ferguson, local residents, business owners, the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club and Tathra Beach Bowling Club that have accommodated the military veterans and emergency responders of Team Rubicon during their mission.
“Veterans are not victims, we’re changing that narrative by getting these guys back into roles that allows them to serve a purpose."Geoff Evans, Team Rubicon Australia CEO
The Tathra Bowlo has become an operations centre for Team Rubicon, providing meals and a meeting place for the community.
“It’s important to have a focal point for the community, a place where people can come and have a drink and a chat,” Mr Evans said.
Tathra Bowlo secretary manager Grant Taylor said the lack of damage created a sense of normality at the club, which had become a busy meeting place in the wake of the fires.
The Tathra bushfire is only the second disaster Team Rubicon Australia has responded to since forming in 2017. Mr Evans said the successful partnership with local clubs was a model that would replicate going forward.
“Clubs connect us, they’re already embedded in the community, they connect us to local people in need within a relaxed environment,” Mr Evans said.
“Clubs NSW has generously covered 25 per cent of the cost of our Tathra mission, The rest is borrowed from Team Rubicon Global, which we need to pay back through fundraising once our work is done here.”
Mr Evans said Team Rubicon’s work was not conditional on pay, but any donations to cover the cost of their work in Tathra were appreciated.
In total, around 75 volunteer military veterans and emergency services workers have helped the disaster recovery effort through Team Rubicon.
Mr Evans, who served 19 years in the army, said volunteering gave veterans a positive sense of purpose.
“This is therapeutic for our veterans, they seek out this kind of meaningful work,” he said.
“Veterans are not victims, we’re changing that narrative by getting these guys back into roles that allows them to serve a purpose, that’s what they’re good at, that's why they sign up to military work.”
Team Rubicon disaster response team leader Mark Dobson, who served 16 years in the navy, said volunteering provided purpose without the constraints of the armed forces.
“The military is a young man’s job, especially when you’ve got a family you don’t want to be apart from,” he said.
“Even just sleeping on the stretchers in the surf club, it’s like the old days again, and really builds that sense of comradery within the team.”
Mr Evans hopes Team Rubicon will leave a legacy when they leave town on April 13.
“We’ve been inducting people into the team, getting them trained on equipment and safety,” he said.
”We want people to feel empowered to keep the work and support going on the ground, it’s about helping each other make those first steps towards a new beginning.”
To learn more about Team Rubicon and make a donation, visit their website.