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More support needed for KI bushfire victims

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A Kangaroo Island woman who has raised over $1 million in cash and essential household items for bush-fire affected families has called on the State Government to do more for those left destitute following the devastating summer bushfires.

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Catherine Kewley, who operates the Island Care charity shop in Kingscote, became the go-to person for anyone wanting to help Kangaroo Island families who lost their livelihoods in the fires six months ago.

Kewley has assisted about 125 families since the fires and is still providing food parcels and other assistance to 40 families, who she said will likely be income-affected for at least two more years.

Kewley said some families have fallen through the cracks.

“There’s been some grants but some of them are not available to everybody,” Kewley said.

“One family has only received $5000 (from the State Government). That’s it, that’s all they’ve got. That’s not enough, they’ve lost everything.

“They are currently living off their insurance, which means they don’t have money to rebuild their house and finish their fencing because they only got paid out a certain amount.

“They are doing everything they can, but in reality they’re not going to be able to rebuild their house because they have to use their money to rebuild fences and replace livestock they’ve lost. It’s just going to take years and years.”

Kewley said what families need is income support until they are back on their feet, as well as grants available to rebuild houses that were destroyed.

She said it was crucial this support be available to everyone who was bushfire-affected “because there’s so much fine print it’s just been incredibly hard for (families) to get anywhere”.

“People are literally having to stay in pods and tents and caravans because they’re having to put their money into livestock, fencing (and) the clearing of their properties.

“Families are split up right now – there’s some staying in town because you can’t all stay in a little pod.”

A State Government spokesperson said they had jointly funded with the Commonwealth $156 million to help those impacted by the summer bushfires.

“This funding is going towards a wide range of support measures including clean up, mental health and wellbeing programs, small business grants, primary producer grants and emergency support,” the spokesperson said.

“Cleaning up after a bushfire can be a very emotional time and we wanted to make sure there was one less thing to worry about so we committed to clear sites to allow the affected communities to begin rebuilding at no cost to homeowners.

“Pleasingly, the final house impacted by bushfires has been cleared and ready to rebuild helping those affected on the road to recovery.

“It will take some time for our bushfire-affected communities to bounce back and we will continue to work with all levels of government to provide the help needed.”

Stay tuned for more on Island Care in our regular Regional Showcase feature this coming Sunday in our Best Life Weekend edition.

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