HomeOpinionEditorialBushfire victims burned again

Bushfire victims burned again


Black Saturday law firm Maurice Blackburn met their commitment to bushfire victims to pay compensation claims totaling $494 million for the Kilmore East-Kinglake class action, Australia’s largest ever class action, before Easter.

Though many bushfire victims are pleased with the outcome after years of waiting the Australian Tax Office (ATO) claiming up $20 million in interest payments has left many local farmers feeling ‘short changed’.

Kinglake Ranges farmers told Kinglake Ranges News that they “couldn’t replace agricultural machinery my pop bought decades ago,” describing the loss of agricultural machinery purchased over generations of family farming.

They spoke of losing animals, fencing and irreplaceable infrastructure more ‘than farm insurance or compensation could ever pay for.’

Many local farms didn’t receive help from Blaze Aid or other charities after Black Saturday to replace fences or infrastructure with many costs barely, if at all, covered.

Charles Exton, fourth generation former Kinglake potato farmer said he’d “sold his water carting business High Mountain to Coca-Cola Amatil to survive…” following Black Saturday.

Charles spoke to Kinglake Ranges News.

“My great grandfather Arnold Exton Snr was an original Kinglake settler”

“I lost generations of harvesting equipment, storage sheds, the family homestead and more…I’m still trying to rebuild my life and farm businesses…I had to sell the water business”

“I’m over this…that’s why I sold (some of) my land to the broccoli farmers”

“There is no way I’ll ever be able to replace all that lost equipment…think I’ll sell up and move to Yea.”

On Black Saturday around 4:30pm Wayne Duhig, a High Mountain tanker driver delivered a water tanker to the Kinglake township and was one of the last vehicles to cross from Kinglake Central to Kinglake as the fire arrived.

The water tanker was used by remaining locals to keep water flowing over the hotel and (former) CFA fire station where the remaining women and children in town had sheltered as the fire front approached.

Despite providing a lifesaving service to the community, Charles Exton feels ‘short-changed’ by the class action outcome and is just one example of a Black Saturday bushfire victim feeling this way. Several Black Saturday survivors told Kinglake Ranges News the outcome was ‘bullshit.’

Most survivors believe the tax liability should fall on Maurice Blackburn not bushfire victims.

Murrindindi Councillor Leigh Dunscombe described the outcome “as outrageously unfair…”

Kelly Alexandrou, Black Saturday class action administrator for Maurice Blackburn declined to answer questions from Kinglake Ranges News.

Text & Images ©COPYRIGHT 2017 Kinglake Ranges News.


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