Carwoola bushfire victims ready to rebuild their lost homes

Vanessa and Kevin Lindley are still waiting to finalise insurance claims two months after a bushfire gutted their home in Carwoola. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Vanessa and Kevin Lindley are still waiting to finalise insurance claims two months after a bushfire gutted their home in Carwoola. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

It's been two months since bushfires tore through Carwoola taking 11 homes but thankfully no lives.

In places there is a cover of lush green grass, and the charcoal-coated eucalypts are starting to grow fresh leaves. From the Lindley's property on Widgiewa Road, the view is spectacular. Rolling hills and typical Australian bush giving way to blue skies, dotted with clouds.

This was what the family saw from their kitchen window, but the portable toilet now holds the best view on the block.

"We're still home," Mr Lindley said. 

"This has always been home. No matter how bad your day is, you come home and you stand at the kitchen window and look out at that, and nothing can be that bad."

The couple comment on the colours, constantly trying to find a positive spin to the devastation and upheaval of recent weeks.

It looks like the eucalypts are giving way to autumn, they said with a chuckle. Unfortunately though, Mrs Lindley adds, as the days pass they're looking more like they're dead. 

That's the reality for almost everything out on Widgiewa Road. While the grass and trees try to regenerate in places, most of the landscape is still bare, still freshly scorched. 

It took the Lindleys just days to return to their property permanently.

Their home and everything on their land was destroyed in the fire, which they had prepared to stay and fight. It was only when flames twice the height of their machinery shed came towering towards them that they fled, fire licking their car as they got out. 

But still, a few days in the city was all they could manage, Mr Lindley said. 

A neighbour offered them the use of a caravan, and the couple has set up an annex to cook and dine. At the time of the bushfire, Mr and Mrs Lindley were preparing to leave for the trip of a lifetime, on a motorbike with a camper trailer, and travel Australia.

"We were expecting to be in Margaret River, testing lovely white wines," Mr Lindley said. 

"But you never know what's around the corner."

In preparation for their trip, one of their three sons, who was newly married, had moved all his belongings - including wedding gifts - to a shipping container on the property. There was only one thing in the container that survived the fire.

"There was one box ... It was charcoal on the top, and rotten or something on the bottom, and their wedding certificate was in that box along with a couple of singed cards," Mrs Lindley said.

The family is still "in a holding pattern" until the insurance company signs off to pay their claims out. While they're keen to make use of the community spirit which has shined through, they're unable to accept help for clearing until the insurance is finalised, or donations of plants and goods, because they have nowhere to keep them.

They're sifting through the rubble of their home, carefully selecting the bricks that are still intact to try to keep some of the heritage of the place alive. The property, called the Courthouse, is named in honour of the origin of the bricks, which were handmade in the 1860s for Queanbeyan's original courthouse. 

No longer structurally sound, the plan is to use the rubble for paths and driveways, and select whole bricks to use for a feature in the home - a decorative commemorative wall, Mrs Lindley called it.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council has raised $192,000 from their bushfire appeal. The Lindleys have already received $6000 in cash, and the donation of a chainsaw from the Lions Club to help clear dangerous trees. 

The priorities for the council funds are restoration of fencing, lopping dangerous trees, and addressing erosion and weed growth. 

"As residents continue with the process of rebuilding and finalising their insurance claims, different needs may emerge, which will direct the distribution of the remaining funds," a council spokesman said.