In June 2020, LG Electronics Australia recognised and rewarded Jamie Wolf, a local hero in his Victoria community. Jamie witnessed first-hand the impact of bushfires in 2015 after his family farm in Barnawartha, Victoria was burnt out. In response, Jamie and his father launched a volunteer-based fencing repair business, Fencing for Fires. The father and son duo volunteer in their spare time to rebuild farmland fencing to those impacted by bushfires.
Fast forward to the devastating 2019/2020 bushfire season, Jamie and his father returned to help rebuild farmlands in the communities of Wodonga, Upper Murray and parts of Southern NSW. While many residents lost their homes during the fires, Fencing for Fires were there to help rebuild much needed fencing so farm owners could pick up and continue their livelihood in the aftermath of the disaster.
Working full-time alongside Fencing for Fires, Jamie has faced many challenges, both financial and personal, with the business taking time away from his own family. However, when it comes to supporting his community during testing times, Jamie wouldn't have it any other way. As an army veteran, his drive to be there for his neighbours keeps him on track and helps him stay mentally focused. Furthermore, seeing the farm owners get back on track quickly continues to be rewarding for him.
We spoke to Jamie to learn more about his selfless efforts – how he got started, his greatest challenges and the future of Fencing for Fires:
LG: What prompted you to give back in your community?
JW: In 2015, our family farm in Barnawartha, Victoria was burnt out. My dad and I rebuilt the fences around our farmland and after this devastating impact, I was asked to help rebuild the fences of others in my community. I didn't realise it at the time how long it would all take to rebuild.
Given the 2019/2020 fires have been called Australia's biggest natural disaster, I knew the scale would be huge and it only felt right to offer up my skills to support my neighbours. From that point, I created the Fencing for Fires Facebook page and have been helping rebuild farmland fences ever since.
During the 2019/2020 bushfires, the community support we received was astronomical – that's what truly got me through the volume of work. We had two to five people from other organisations come in and help us out, which took a lot of the pressure off – fencing is many hands make light work in my eyes. But it was the community support on the ground that got us through.
LG: How did you come up with the concept?
JW: After my family's experience, I knew what it was like to rebuild a farm, specifically the fences. It required 18 months of hard work to get back to some normality and I found it very difficult to do it on my own, while the struggle was evident on dad and my brother after months of work. So, I knew if I could get support, I could get results to help rebuild the fire affected quicker.
I'm an army veteran and for my whole life I've always felt the need to help people. That's why I enlisted in the army; it was my opportunity to help people. I was deployed to countries like East Timor where I was able to help other countries while helping my own. Fencing for Fires is an extension of this mentality. It's so rewarding and helps to keep my mind on track, especially after returning home from a job that can have a major impact on your mental health. Having the opportunity to help people and make a positive impact on their life is why I get out of bed every day
LG: Have you come up against any challenges?
JW: It has taken a while for the name to be trusted and followed. The main challenge has been relying on the GoFundMe process to keep ahead of the red tape. Most recently, COVID-19 has certainly been a big challenge because the world stopped and the focus was taken off Australia's biggest natural disaster, but I never stopped pushing. While the world stopped, the repercussions from the fires were still there and I had no choice but to keep pushing to rebuild so no impacts were forgotten. I continued with limited resources and slowly but surely, it's picking back up again.
It's also only dad and I rebuilding across the community, which in terms of volume is challenging. We have Denise who volunteers to help us with admin and logistics. Every now and then we work with Deloitte in Melbourne who, like LG Electronics, help grassroots organisations like Fencing for Fires achieve our goals. With each challenge comes a great reward and I'm thankful to have the support of my family, friends and organisations that help me help others.
LG: What results have you achieved so far?
JW: Fencing for Fires followers have raised over $35,000 for fencing materials, in which we have turned into over $100,000 dollars' worth of materials through good dealings. It's allowed us to get thousands of steel posts, hundreds of kilometres of wire, barb and other materials directly to the frontline with no politics and into the hands to the fire affected. We have been able to personally help install hundreds of fence lines throughout the fire grounds. But our results are not only about the money, labour and materials. We have seen great results in the mental health of property owners who have had their livelihood impacted so heavily by the fires. With our help, we're able to rebuild with them then share a laugh and a beer after all they have been through.
LG: What is next for you and your initiative?
JW: The mission is to see the rebuilding through until there is no one left who needs our help and those affected by the fires have some sort of normality back in their lives. Post the rebuild, I hope to be able to develop a disaster relief charity with my good mate from Deloitte Australia, Pete Williams. The charity it still evolving but it will be focused around the trades needed after a disaster. Like the emergency force, I'd like to set up a program that gets tradies into affected areas, so people have access to things like power and water days after the disaster, rather than weeks or months.
I'd also like to continue raising awareness for Fencing for Fires, to get the message out to some bigger companies, like we did LG, to help generate a larger following of our organisation. Ultimately, more donations and even some help around the administrative side to keep the relief effort growing could really add extra value to our efforts. My hope is to turn it into something I can work on full time as there would be no better job in the world than being able to help people through their darkest hours every day and see them come out the other side.
LG Electronics Australia would like to thank Jamie for his kindness and compassion for communities impacted by the bushfire devastations earlier this year. We wish Jamie our best as he continues to grow and expand Fencing for Fires.
If you know someone like Jamie making positive contributions through their time, actions, talents and/or dedication to others, you can nominate them to be named an LG Local Legend by visiting www.lglifesgood.com.au/nominate-a-local-legend. We are looking forward to celebrating their achievements with you soon!