As a Kinglake resident, I thought that you may like to know about a visit by Australia’s richest man, Andrew Forrest, to the burnt out areas of Kinglake and Kinglake West on Monday 9 March.
The meeting was held in the community tent next to the Uniting Church in Kinglake West, with a representative of the army and Andrew Forrest — the idea being that Andrew would give advice to residents on how to move forward after a major disaster and how to ask for help in re-building the community. Over 150 residents and police turned up.
Andrew was talking about the availability of pre-fabricated and movable homes, like the ones made available to Flowerdale residents, he was also trying to get the community to express what it is that is most urgent in getting the town started on a recovery.
Helping the local businesses who have lost much of their trade was one idea he wanted to work on and appointing local people as a core group to work with the community as some form of spokespeople was another.
But things turned nasty when some of the locals decided to take the microphone from Mr Forrest and address the assembled crowd themselves. After a tirade about local councils and Government doing very little to help the community, Mr Forrest re-scheduled another meeting for Friday 13 March at 8pm.
I actually felt sorry for both Mr Forrest and the Army rep, as they wanted to assist the community to help itself, but many of the residents in the community have a feral attitude and little education, they only wanted a quick fix — as some not so well educated person shouted out, “We don’t want the talk, we want your money.”
I appreciate Mr Forrest coming out to see us, but at the moment, the general attitude from many in the community is not good. Those of us educated people up on the mountain are concerned that we could lose a great opportunity to see Kinglake and Kinglake West be bigger and better than it was before.
I understand that after a major event like the one we just lived through, there will be stress and anger, but I also think that a lack of communication to and by the right people will be more damaging than anything else.