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Author: Subject: On-The-Ground Account of Australia's Deadliest Bush Fires

Zen Peach





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  posted on 2/2/2009 at 06:42 PM
quote:
http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/features/What-is-it-about-the.4935041 .jp

02 February 2009
By Hamish Macdonell
I WAS determined not to be scruffy when I arrived for my first day's work on the Newcastle Herald, a morning newspaper based in a large industrial town an hour or so north of Sydney.
"Am I smart enough?" I asked the chief sub-editor.

"Oh, yeah, mate. Just lose the tie. Come to think of it, you don't really need the jacket either.

"We can't have you putting the rest of us to shame," he replied.

It took only a few weeks before I was coming to work in a T-shirt and shorts, like the rest of the team.

We arrived for the start of our daily shift at 4pm, having spent the early part of the day on the beach or playing tennis – and that was in the depths of an Australian winter.

On Fridays everyone raced to get the newspaper finished as quickly as possible because it was accepted that everyone would be heading out for the weekend – either to go boating, or surfing, or camping or whatever other activities the benevolent climate allowed. The weekends were sacrosanct.

That attitude to work, and to the work-life balance, is one of many agreeable differences between the UK and Australia, differences which are persuading more and more Brits to head Down Under.

According to a survey published yesterday, record numbers of poms are emigrating to Australia.

The Move Monitor Survey, which was commissioned by the removal firm Pickfords, found a 31 per cent increase in the number of individuals and families who moved to Australia in 2008, compared with 2007.

About 40,000 Brits moved to Australia in 2007, with about 23,000 saying they were staying permanently.

If there has indeed been such a large increase in emigration, as this new survey suggests, then we might be approaching the levels of emigration not seen since the days of "ten-pound poms", when about a million UK residents took advantage of the assisted passage scheme between 1945 and 1972.

So is it just the effects of the credit crunch, or is there more to this latest wave of British emigration?

A quick look at the figures shows that this exodus cannot be blamed just on Britain's current economic woes.

Emigration from Britain to Australia has more than doubled in the last decade so while the worsening recession has almost certainly accelerated the process, the trend was already there long before anyone heard of the credit crunch.

The situation is now so extreme that the international body the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reckons that Britain is now experiencing the worst "brain drain" of any country in the world.

But why Australia? Part of the reason comes from the pro-active attitude of the Australian government.

Aware that the country has a shortage of workers with key skills, the Australian authorities recently loosened their visa requirements, which made it easier for Brits to settle in Australia.

The "skilled migrant" visa system is based on a points system, favouring younger people and those with languages, skills and training in certain sectors.

But there is now an extra five-point bonus for passing a standard English test, which has helped a large number of Brits get over the points threshold and qualify for residency.

Among those being targeted include teachers, doctors, accountants, plumbers, nurses, carpenters, dentists and IT managers.

Andrew James, of the Emigration Group, which helps English-speaking people move to Australia and New Zealand, explained what the changes would mean.

"Australia is looking to tailor the policy to suit their needs," he said.

"That means trying to attract people away from the obvious places, like Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, and trying to direct them to what they call the regions, which doesn't mean living in the back of nowhere."

However, Steve Davis, regional director for immigration at the Australian High Commission in London, said that the desire for an improved lifestyle was still the chief attraction.

"Recent research shows that the main reason British people are migrating to Australia is for the lifestyle, including the climate.

"They also listed future opportunities for their families and work opportunities as key reasons for moving," he said.

This was supported by Pickfords' managing director Kevin Pickford.

He moved to Australia in 1982 and then returned to England in 2005.

"I fully understand the draw of Australia, its attractions and benefits," he said.

"I'm sure that the quality of life, sunnier climate and diverse job opportunities play a big part in people's relocation decision."

Other factors include cheaper housing – a three-bedroom detached house with a pool in tropical Brisbane can be bought for about £120,000, about the same as a two-bedroom terrace in Leith.

The quality and range of food is excellent, with increasing Asian influences shaping Australian cuisine.

Australia is generally a safe and secure country in which to bring up a family and, of course, it is English-speaking (after a fashion).

So what about the down sides? They are harder to quantify but, for all its undoubted charms, Australia lacks depth, in a whole range of areas, which you don't notice to start with but which creep up on you.

I couldn't quite work it out at first but then I realised that all the towns, villages and communities looked the same, with endless rows of flat, square buildings stretching into the distance. I realised I missed the quirkiness of our architectural heritage – there are no medieval streets or Norman churches in Australia – and the depth of cultural and social history which goes along with it.

Australia is also a long, long way away. That may sound obvious but it is impossible to react immediately to a family emergency back in Britain when you are at least a day, and probably three, from even setting foot in the UK.

Anyone moving out there as an adult may just have to accept that, psychologically, it may never actually feel like "home".

It may be "home" for your children and their children but maybe not for you – and that can get some getting used to.

One word of advice though, to those who actually make the move. When asked at customs whether you have a criminal record, it is best not to reply: "I didn't realise that was still necessary."


Lowdown on the Oz experience

FIVE BENEFITS OF LIVING IN AUSTRALIA…

1 Climate: The average temperature in Sydney ranges from a pleasant 16 degrees in winter to a sunny but not over-bearing 26 degrees in summer.

2 Cost of living: A three-bedroom detached villa with a pool in Brisbane costs the same as a two-bedroom flat in Leith, Edinburgh. Food is also generally much cheaper.

3 Sport: Australia is probably the most sporty place in the world and children tend to grow up fit and healthy because they do so much of it.

4 Natural wonders: There is the Great Barrier Reef, tropical rain forests, the extraordinary phenomenon of Uluru (Ayers Rock), vast deserts and mountains to ski on.

5 People: They are largely warm, friendly, irreverent of authority and meritocratic, embodying the spirit of the Burns poem "A man's a man for a' that."

…AND FIVE DOWN SIDES

1 Climate: Melbourne is currently sweltering in heat waves of up to 50 degrees while much of the rest of the country is arid and unhabitable.

2 Dangerous creatures: Australia has more species lethal to man than anywhere else, from spiders to jellyfish and from snakes to crocodiles.

3 Sport: Australians can be arrogant about sporting success. They also believe football is played only with an oval ball, in three different ways.

4 Culture: Australians do have a culture, it's just younger, fresher and less developed than ours. As the old joke goes, it's not all found at the bottom of a beer bottle – but much of it is.

5 People: Australians can be boorish, rude, loud and obnoxious – and the men can, too. They are known locally as 'hoons' and there are lots of them about.



[Edited on 2/9/2009 by DerekFromCincinnati]

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 2/2/2009 at 07:31 PM
You can keep the spiders thankyouverymuch....

 

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Universal Peach



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  posted on 2/2/2009 at 09:37 PM
Dental care???

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 2/3/2009 at 11:59 PM
Here are some pics I recieved tonight of a kangaroo in the ocean surf along the coast of Australia, taken by my friend John in Canberra. It is summer down there, and mighty hot. Says John about roos in the surf, "Roos are great in water - and when attacked by dogs often go into the water and stand there - the dogs follow them and the roo, who is standing up, then dunks the dog and drowns it. This happened a few times in Canberra and the papers were full of letters from outraged Golden Retriever owners heartbroken because Rover had snuffed it at the paws of an aggressive kangaroo. Moral, teach your dog not to chase kangaroos. I have a kelpie - working dog - she doesn't chase them but goes into a quivering heap with excitement when she sees them a-hopping over the terrain."





 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 2/4/2009 at 12:04 AM
Kinda looked like Keanu Reeves in that first pic....

 

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Ultimate Peach



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  posted on 2/4/2009 at 05:24 AM
fair and balanced commentary coming from a scot who would know zilch about oz. forgot to mention our greatest attraction...



I'm ignoring the comment about dental care.

and the joke is, when the plane touches down and the engines stop how come you can still hear the whining?

 

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Peach Head



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  posted on 2/4/2009 at 05:48 AM
I'm one of the ones who made the move from the UK to Oz. I came here in 1993 for 4 months with work and never went home. I haven't been back to the UK since 1996 and I don't miss it enough to go back anytime soon. It'a great place to bring up your kids and as a scuba diver some of the best diving in the world (I purposely look to dive with sharks, except Great Whites!). Best move i ever made!

The only downside is the access to some of the bands that I like (like ABB) who rarely or never tour Oz. It is improving though and we have had sone great acts here in the last couple of years including dTb in December.

 

Universal Peach



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  posted on 2/4/2009 at 09:47 AM
quote:
I'm ignoring the comment about dental care.


LOL I'm just saying

 

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  posted on 2/9/2009 at 06:24 PM
quote:
http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/i-now-understand-the-word-firestorm- 20090209-8288.html?page=-1

Luke van den Berk is the caretaker of a 33-hectare Kinglake West property in Victoria, Australia, owned by the Macedonian Church. When the firestorm hit, he was trapped in the house with his children — sons Aaron, 13, and Khyle, 12, and daughter Brodee, 16 — and his girlfriend, Lois MacDonald, 42. This is their story.


I now understand the word 'firestorm'

Luke van den Berk
February 10, 2009


THERE wasn't much warning.

I'm on a good basis with the national park rangers … they are over the fence from me. Ranger Tony Fitzgerald was giving us updates on what was happening, but as we got our last update we could hear the fire coming up the ridge behind us. He went down the hill of the national park on one of the tourist roads and came back up and said the fires were 700 metres away. He said: "You can leave now if you want to. If you want to stay we will help you out if we can."

We decided to stay in the house. Within three minutes the flames were 30 to 40 metres high. There were horizontal sparks and embers — the wind was just incredible. The word "firestorm" — I have a clear understanding of it now.

We were inside the house and the noise outside was incredible. Sparks and embers were bashing up against the roof and the windows, the fence had caught fire, the woodpile against the house caught fire.

Then the windows started exploding — it sounded like a 747 taking off. It was broad daylight but it went dark because there was so much smoke and stuff — it just went dark.

The house was on fire. I had three attempts at getting everyone out safely — they were all in the lounge room. I kept going outside to see if we could get a decent path out, but the radiant heat was the killer. The first two times I went out, the radiant heat just forced me back in the house.

At that point I knew I had to wait for that initial part of the storm to pass over. Unfortunately, it consumed the house while we were in it. I shut all the bedroom doors.

We lost two cats and five kittens — I had to shut the bedroom door and we listened to them die. We saved our little dog, Cougar. It was traumatic for the kids. I had to shut the door because the windows had exploded and the bedrooms were on fire.

I made my third attempt at going outside. The radiant heat had passed a little, and I just thought, "We have to get out." I had buckets of water outside. I took them in and got sheets and towels, dipped them into the water and wrapped everyone up over their heads and their faces and told them we had to go.

When we were 100 metres from the house, the roof collapsed. That was one or two minutes after we got out.

We ran out into the street. There were flames everywhere. You just looked down the street and there was devastation. It was like the army came in and bombed the whole thing with napalm.

We were running down the street. Gas cylinders were exploding. A lot of the cylinders had safety features on them … apparently when a gas cylinder heats up, a valve releases and all the gas comes out of the cylinder, so there was lots of shhhh noises.

A lot of cars were exploding — it was like a war zone. We had to step over power lines, go under power lines, there were power poles falling over in front of us, trees coming down everywhere.

And the noise — all I can compare it to is the sound of a 747 taking off. We were running down the street and the radiant heat was getting at us. We had to keep moving. If you stood still you would have shrivelled.

We ran down the street for about a kilometre — there was just no one, no one to help. My girlfriend was going, "Where the hell are the fire brigade?" I said, "We are on our own, we have got to go." I just had to keep them going, I said, "Keep going, keep going, faster."

We got to one house about a kilometre away and there was someone there spraying water on it. We took refuge in their house. There was a lady inside. We were probably there for about 10 minutes.

I was popping in and out of the house because I was paranoid about what was going to happen. His pump stopped working and then his balcony caught fire and I just went back in and said, "We gotta go." My girlfriend didn't want to leave. I started swearing: "We have got to go f---ing now." We got the kids and the dog and we left … we left those people there. Fortunately we caught up with them at the third house we got to — our final refuge.

We went to another house where a man was watering down his house. He had his son with him. He told us to get inside and we felt quite safe. He was outside running round, wetting it all down. Then another 10 minutes went past and he said, "I can't save it — we've got to go."

We had to go only 50 metres over the road to the third house. It was owned by a lady who was a CFA member and she had left the firefighting front to come home and save her home. She was really well set up. She had fire pumps.

The kids sheltered in the basement part of the house — they were very traumatised. My daughter was having an asthma attack at that point. We had no medication and we had to get her down low on the floor because it was all full of smoke under the house as well. I just had to talk her through it, telling her, "You have just got to calm down, you have to breathe through it slowly, just relax, we are safe now."

When she was feeling a bit better I went out and helped the men. We were there for about half an hour until the bulk of the flames had left. Then we were just going around the house blacking out spot fires.

We stayed there for probably about an hour and then went to the local CFA and slept on the floor there for the night.



 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 2/9/2009 at 07:10 PM
Thoughts going out for these folks in Australia. Have been following the news on these fires and the loss is tremendous.

 

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Ultimate Peach



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  posted on 2/11/2009 at 05:15 AM
this is the worst natural disaster in australia's history. as of to-day 181 dead, and the toll is expected to rise over the coming days and weeks. bushfires still raging so it's not over. and in the north the floods have been devastating with numerous deaths. the whole country is reeling at the moment...the support and donations have been overwhelming and this nation is pulling together to help the victims. prayers appreciated.

 

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