How did FIREFOXES begin?
A little history to this question….
In the days following Black Saturday, Jemima set up a Private Relief Center on her 50 acre property, on the main road between Kinglake and Kinglake West . Known as 305 (the property number) it serviced hundreds of people daily. Urgently neede goods were dropped and distributed (without the red tape) by an amazing group of up to 30 volunteers who often started at 6am and worked through to 2am the next morning. The site grew to a massive production of 11 shipping containers, internet bus, petrol drum storage, cooked food for the fire affected and hard working volunteers and soooooo much more.
One of those volunteers was Rowena Allen and her partner Kaye Bradshaw. They dropped off pancake mixture to what they thought, was the main Kinglake Relief Centre. After realising that 305 was being co-ordinated, organised and run by Jemima, they offered to bring the Uniting Care Cutting Edge Mobile Internet Bus back a few days later and help however was needed. They stayed for the next three months!
305 was a massive and highly successful exercise, but wasnt sustainable. Rowena and Kaye were able to organise for 305, and the Kinglake West Relief Centre to merge and work from the one site at the Uniting Church property in Kinglake West. It was here that the merged relief centers became known as 1050 (the property number on the main road) and was only possible because of the compassion and support of the congregation. 1050 relied on donations and private help to serve meals to approx 300 people everyday, offered material aid, essential items and a support network all available to those in need.
After some time,the State Government agreed to fund 1050 and it became the only place where locals could get a nutritious meal, meet others in the same situation in a safe environment and know that those listening really, really undertsood. Special bonds and friendships formed.
Towards the end of March 2009 when 1050 was winding up, Kate Riddell had a long chat with Rowena Allen running the site. Kate expressed her concerns about the community’s future and was looking for a way (especially for the women), to maintain and build upon the friendships, strong bonds and feelings of connectedness that had emerged.
Rowena introduced Jemima and Kate who instantly recognised similar patterns forming in the community, the men and women were handling the trauma of Black Saturday and the aftermath very differently emotionally.
Rowena, Kaye, Kate and Jemima organised a small gathering in April with the aim of connecting women in the community and finding our what they needed in order to maintain the inspiring work they were undertaking. It was here that Kate and Jemima met Arwyn and other women who later became FIREFOXES members. Arwyn, Kate and Jemima after seeing what a huge success the night was, decided to forge ahead together with the group.
The group intially called itself “What Women Want”, because this was the question being put to the women each time they meet.
From here the answers started flowing… to be together and have a few laughs….learning a new skill or a hobby….guest speakers to eduate and inspire ….how to help the children suffering from post traumatic stress and much more.
The continued feedback guides the women’s recovery and in turn assits families and the communities heal, recover and move forward to create a new normal.