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It has been a tough few months for Josh Collings since his home in Victoria’s north-east was burnt to the ground in January’s bushfires: the rubble was only cleared last week.
Mr Collings said he had been told it would only take contractors three to four days to clear his rubble away, but it took them two weeks.
“It’s taking a lot longer than we were told it would, or we expected, but it is coming along,” Mr Collings, who lives in Cudgewa, said.
Despite the extra time and the wait for help, Mr Collings feels like he is one of the lucky ones among those who lost their homes in the fires, with many others still waiting for a clean-up and other kinds of assistance.
“I feel there is a sense of relief but also a sense of being forgotten. It’s a really confusing time,” he said.
Politicians have demanded answers as to why the clean-up effort was taking so long.
Building giant Grocon has been contracted by the State Government to help with the clean-up, yet only 40 of nearly 700 properties have been cleared.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has reassured residents that they would get the help they needed.
“We are dealing with a global pandemic at the moment, but we have not forgotten you, nor will we,” Mr Andrews said.
Many businesses and residents in Victorian tourist hotspots say they didn’t have time to start rebuilding before the pandemic hit.
Mark Sewell, manager of the Tintaldra Hotel in north-east Victoria, described the past few months as challenging.
“We never could’ve dreamed this would happen,” Mr Sewell said.
“We were looking so forward to getting up here and making it our home, which we have, but it’s just luck of the draw.
“We knew it was going to be quiet so that’s why we were hoping for everything to come on board before winter, but we will battle on like Australians do.”
At the Tintaldra general store Betty Walton was hoping for a busy summer to help pay for restoration works on the 156-year-old historic building.
“I had it booked up for a very good summer because the interior of the store needs painting, it was last painted 30 years ago,” she said.
“The floor needs a lot of attention now.”
The business is popular with coach trips, but Ms Walton has been forced to cancel three months of bookings.
Despite everything, she is trying to stay positive.
“The countryside is beautiful, so if we can all count our blessings, there are lots of blessings,” she said.
Mallacoota in Gippsland was hard-hit by the bushfires and today its streets are virtually empty.
Local business owner and Mallacoota and District Business and Tourism Association member Linda Bruce says it is worrying for the region and the industry.
“The accommodation business in Mallacoota and I assume the whole of East Gippsland and probably Victoria is in severe crisis,” she said.
And at the Nowa Nowa caravan park near Victoria’s Lakes Entrance, Kristen Huggins says they were also forced to cancel countless bookings but she hopes tourist will eventually return.
“We had no problems in giving refunds but what we want to see is people come back,” she said.
“You just feel like everything is going well and we did have such a massive show of support (after the bushfires) and you think everything is just going great,” Ms Huggins said.
“And then you start getting excited about getting some time off at the end of it, but this isn’t exactly what we had planned for our time off.”
The bushfire victims were front page news for weeks but now they feel forgotten.
And many are wondering what’s happened to the tens of millions of dollars promised in aid.
Ms Bruce has applied for a number of bushfire grants, but is yet to receive anything.
She says the paperwork is extensive, which is adding to the delays.
“We were told that it would be really easy, but in our experience that hasn’t been the case,” she said.
“We were told we wouldn’t need an accountant and we’d be able to do it on our own.
“But in reality, it took us three to four weeks to get the information together and we are still waiting to see if those applications have been successful or not.”
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Bushfires survivors feel forgotten because of…