August 14, 2020
BlazeAid – the volunteer organisation which has come to the aid of the South Burnett multiple times in recent years – has been recognised with a prestigious Commonwealth “Points of Light” award by the Queen.
The announcement of the award, to BlazeAid founders Rhonda and Kevin Butler, was made in London on Friday.
British High Commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell presented the award “virtually” to Rhonda and Kevin.
“I am delighted to virtually present Kevin and Rhonda Butler with this award for their dedication and commitment to both their own community and other communities in Australia who have been impacted by natural disasters – including the recent devastating bushfires,” High Commissioner Treadell said.
“They both demonstrate incredible commitment to BlazeAid; the volunteers they have recruited and the communities they support. They are making a significant impact on the lives of those that benefit from BlazeAid’s work.”
Kevin and Rhonda said they started BlazeAid after the fatal Black Saturday fires in 2009.
“(We pledged) to help – with local volunteers – a few dozen of our immediate neighbours to rebuild their burnt fencing over 14 days,” they said.
“The idea caught on and in the ensuing 10 years, volunteers have poured in from all over Australia and the world to physically help others impacted by our country’s yearly recurrence of fires, floods and cyclones.
“After almost 250 natural disasters, hundreds of thousands of volunteers, farmers, donors and local communities have teamed together to rebuild 14,000 kilometres of new fencing, donating 400,000 working days on 9000 devastated farms.
“The value of work done by BlazeAid volunteers who make such a difference to the lives of others – who have lost almost everything they hold dear – is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
“BlazeAid is almost totally volunteerism with just one paid bookkeeper.
“Today, BlazeAid has 26 base camps running over three states from Kangaroo Island in South Australia, throughout NSW and right up to the Queensland border following the 2019-20 Australian mega fires last summer.
“Volunteers have been working shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of farming families daily, seven days a week non-stop, to rebuild what fires destroyed in just minutes.
“We wake up every morning being so grateful to the thousands of BlazeAid volunteers who selflessly make a massive difference to the physical, and mental health of hundreds of vulnerable country families in these devastated communities.
“We salute all BlazeAid volunteers who enrich the lives of others everyday and it is them we humbly accept the award on behalf of – for these wonderful and dedicated volunteers have made BlazeAid a most loved and respected Australian charity.”
The Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, has been recognising a volunteer from a Commonwealth country with the award every week since 2018.
Previous Australian winners have been Mat Bowtell, an engineer who used his professional skills to design and create 3D printed limbs for thousands of families worldwide for free; and John van Bockxmeer, an emergency doctor who founded “Fair Game”, an organisation that delivers fitness activities and recycled sports equipment to people living in remote communities.