The Story of Rebuilding a Home After The Devastating Australian Bushfires (House Tour)

Dave was a fire station so was my son and i was at home with the kids and we knew the fire was getting closer and you know Jayden kept coming to me and saying mum the fires are getting closer mom are you going to move and i’d say well i’m watching it i’m watching fires near us and they told us we don’t have to worry until tomorrow the fires will you know probably if they’re coming to Cobargo they’ll get there tomorrow Jayden said to me come outside i said what’s the noise and he said that’s the fire and it’s really close you have to go now so he then helped me shovel everything into the car and

i left you were at the show ground yep catering for people who were just milling about and and we couldn’t get in touch with each other at this time i didn’t know how dave was how jaden was and at about two o’clock in the afternoon jay called me and i knew something was wrong because he was crying and sobbing and crying and he said oh mum i tried so hard to save it i really tried and i just couldn’t when we first came to Cobargo we had six children with us and they were our foster children our family fluctuates sometimes we have a lot sometimes we have not very many and we can’t really remember how many because i stopped counting in Canberra

and that was just over the 400 mark and we’ve had a lot more since we’ve been down here it was a very easy community to get into we were welcomed with open arms new year’s day 2020 was the start of a downward spiral of total loss extreme uncertainty and serious mental health issues i couldn’t even make cups of teas and coffees and all my life i’d been helping people and it got to a point i could no longer do that in march 2020 we had our first contact with breathe architecture of Melbourne the journey started pretty simply with us writing to the rfs fire chief being introduced to dave dave said to us there’s over 400 people that lost their houses around here there must be someone who deserves this more than us there must be someone

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who needs help more than us why don’t you help them and madeleine responded by saying well you’ve spent your entire life helping other people they’d fostered dozens and dozens of children put community service at the front of their entire life and beyond all that he was the town santa he had a sled that he would drive into town every christmas so there is no one else and madeleine said dave you’re a hero and we want to help you dave you know went quiet and barbara gave him a big hug and said you see you’re a hero and it was quite a beautiful moment and so from that moment on um madeleine worked really closely with them to work out what it was they needed to build they were living in temporary housing with all of their foster children so they really were just after a home from a design perspective this house is

incredibly simple and really humble we wanted to think about the future should another bushfire event occur as well as just deliver a better outcome that’s more sustainable you know we just couldn’t believe that someone we didn’t even know who was in melbourne was going to do this for somebody in little kavago and my job was to call everyone i knew and ask for donations i started by calling fisher pakel asking for a house full of appliances to which they immediately said yes and i called tormunds and asked for paint for the entire house and of course they said yes and then i called fielders and asked for steel for the roof and the walls and

then i called b-rec energy and said i need solar for this house i called automatic heating and asked for a heat pump and then we spoke to formbrick trade link accent windows studio all and they donated as well and also the builder jason what an incredible young man who committed to get dave and barbara back into the house by christmas and so it was this incredible team of people that came together within a blink of an eye and then i went back to maddie and said here are all the people that are donating these things how do we design a house with this kit of parts we were amazed that the architect madeleine sewell drew the plans without seeing

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the site due to covert 19 lockdowns it was amazing that madeleine was able to include the movement of the sun the layout of the site and the lay of the land it was really really good it was just something just something to focus on that was really positive and this is it it’s simple it’s unegotistical it’s carbon neutral in operation importantly and for us it’s one of the projects we’re most proud of despite its incredible humility so we’ve got the bedroom side it has the bathrooms and the bedrooms and we’ve got the kitchen living and dining area we put a lot of time and effort into considering the environmentally sensitive design components this house runs on a fossil fuel free system we’ve got a hydronic heat pump system with a buffer tank

we designed the house to have a pitched roof to shed embers if another fire event were to occur the roof also has a sprinkler system installed along the ridgeline being here for the first time in cavarigo and meeting them and their amazing kids has been a really great experience and we’re incredibly proud of the outcome and everybody’s amazing efforts at making it happen this morning dave and i drove into the mountains behind their house and we saw the devastation of ridge and valley after reach and valley he said that the fire burned with such intensity that fire just rolled across the ground and anything that was combustible in the soil was burning the ground itself was on fire when it hit the house they’ve explained to me that some of these trees will never come back and the vegetation is going to change because some things survived the heat and some didn’t and then he kind of talked to me about this idea

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that it’s like the community in cabargo some people have left they’ve given up they’ve sold their houses and moved out and other people are rebuilding and they’re rebuilding better they’re looking at how can they grow and how can they grow differently as a community that’s the saddest part there’s a lot of people out there that are still living in a caravan that still haven’t got approval to build a house or they still don’t have enough money or they don’t have enough help people still come up to you in the street and they’ll be crying and they’ll hug you still it’s just large chunks of the town missing that have never been rebuilt there’s been a handful of prefab houses built there’s been a handful of modular houses built but this is only the second house to be stick built on site building prices have gone through the roof because everyone’s trying to rebuild and so people who even were insured now their insurance won’t cover the cost to rebuild what they had because of trade prices what these people need is help in really practical things so if you’re an architect please offer your services pro bono to deliver the entire project start to finish if you’re a builder or a tradie please think about coming down here and doing some work to help deliver some houses and if you’re a supplier like fielders or bishop hakkel or tourbin’s think about donating some materials to help bring down the cost of building there is still so much work to be done here but it’s starting and you can see that people’s hope is coming back particularly those who would put their own lives on the line to try and save others and who’d lost everything it’s the best thing you can do to help somebody is to yeah come along after such a horrible disaster and help them get their lives together because that’s what happened with us and we’re just yeah there’s no way we could ever repay anyone for doing it no way you

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