My name is Sean Davey and I'm a freelance photographer covering the New South Wales bushfires in Australia.
On 31 December 2019 a ferocious fire ripped through Cobargo (and other towns) on the South Coast of NSW in Australia. In the fire's path were many homes and small towns that now lie in ruins.
I met Coolagolite farmer Steve Shipton on New Year's Day 2020 as he was culling injured beef cattle that were so badly burned that they couldn't get up, let alone survive. Many cows lay dead on burned ground, but Steve - like many farmers - had the grueling task of culling a number of cows and calves that were still alive. His favourite heffa that he had for 13 years also died in the fire.
Steve and his family lost roughly ten percent of their herd, with many heffas that died pregnant with unborn calves. I was working for AAP (Australian Associated Press) when I met Steve and photographed him culling one of the injured calves. The poor thing had dragged itself about ten metres, but when we came across it, it couldn't move any further, and it had burns to its legs that went to the bone and joints.
I know that a lot of people are hurting, many have lost homes and worst of all lives have been lost. Steve wouldn't agree to crowdfunding for him, no one I've met here on the South Coast would, I imagine. In the words of people we have met who have lost everything, 'there's someone worse off than me.'
Steve told me that each calf was worth anywhere from $700-$1000, plus the unborn calves that were yet to be born. That's how I came up with the figure of $20,000, $1000 for each of the cows that Steve and his family lost.
I'm sure that any money raised from this effort will be shared amongst the Coolagolite community. Of that I have no doubt. I know other people are suffering also, and that Steve isn't special in any way compared to all his neighbours who I didn't meet and who weren't photographed. He will be the first to tell you.
Today an old mate of Steve's drove 700kms in a semi-trailer from Tocumwul in NSW with $10,000 of hay as a gift for the family. There is no water, no power, no reception and certainly no feed for the remaining cows that Steve has in Coolagolite. Not only has the community been affected badly by the fire, but they have also been battling the extreme drought that everyone in rural and regional Australia is facing. Steve said that he was proud that he had kept his heard so healthy during such tough times.
I've never started a crowdfunding campaign, but today I decided that I should at least try. This picture of Steve shooting his calf went around the world from Australia to the USA, Europe and Asia and I've read many comments from people all over the world who have been moved by Steve's plight, and that of all people affected by the bushfires.
I'm not sure how much we'll raise, but here it goes. I'm starting it off with my own contribution, so at least that's something.
I reckon $20,000 will just get things started for people in this community; it will help provide immediate relief for feed and water, diesel, mending fences on properties and other basic items. Many people have lost homes, and as I said, people have been killed. And it's not over yet.
The man who donated $10,000 worth of hay today helped to inspire this campaign, as too did a man who today accused me and a colleague of doing nothing to help but sell advertising space for newspapers. I can understand people's grief and I don't blame him for his attitude towards me, but maybe, just maybe, this might be something that will help the Coolagolite community in the coming days and weeks.
Thanks for reading this and I appreciate your support.
- Brian Flannelly
- Sarah Harding
Organizer and beneficiary