Team Rubicon using the skills of veterans to help bushfire victims rebuild
When Adam Weinert’s Adelaide Hills home was destroyed by bushfire in December, he was gutted.
“I’m so fatigued it’s starting to affect me cognitively now, and emotionally it’s just torn my heart out.”
Mr Weinert is an Army veteran.
The bushfire left him feeling alone and longing for the friendship and support he had in the military.
Then Team Rubicon came to his rescue. Team Rubicon is a volunteer organisation of more than 3,000 members, mostly veterans, who are helping bushfire victims across the nation.
“Team Rubicon, in a physical sense, have come here and provided countless days’ worth of labour,” Mr Weinert said.
“That’s assisted me in closing the gap between what I’ll need to rebuild and what I’m insured for.
“So essentially, it’s absolute gold dust that they were able to come here and provide me with that.”
Importantly for Mr Weinert, the volunteers found his cherished military medals among the rubble of his home.
“They found my dog tags, they found my beret badge, they found some beautiful old rank slides for epaulettes on the shoulders that were given to me by a World War II veteran,” he said.
“They were pulled out of the rubble.
“They sifted through it for a couple of days in incredibly severe heat to actually dig that stuff out.
“I just broke down when they presented that to me.”
Bushfires to leave ‘long-term mental health problem’. Team Rubicon’s CEO, Geoff Evans, said it was not just physical help the organisation offered fire victims, but also emotional support.
“When we first started doing this, we underestimated the psychological impact that the disasters were having on people,” Mr Evans told 7.30.
“Just the other day, down the road here, a very savvy team leader was listening to one of the homeowners talk and picked up that that guy was actually suicidal and we took them to hospital and saved their life.”
The Federal Government is offering free counselling for fire victims, but Mr Evans is worried there will not be enough help for everyone affected.
“I’ve been to a lot of fire-affected communities around Australia over the last few months and it’s astounding just how raw and emotional people are,” he said.
“There is going to be a long-term mental health problem in these communities and I can’t see the support services there at the moment.”
Volunteer Bec Wilken served in the Army for 15 years. She left 12 months ago and joined Team Rubicon. “When I heard about this area being so heavily affected by the bushfires, I had to help,” she told 7.30.
“I think for a lot of us, it puts life back in perspective for you.
“At the end of the day, we’ll go home to our houses and our beds. These people have nothing left.”
Mr Evans, an Afghanistan veteran, said volunteering gave Team Rubicon members a purpose after life in the military.
“When veterans leave the military they have all these amazing skills, they use the most cutting-edge technology … they’ve matched wits with a really ruthless and cunning enemy, and then they come back and then there’s really nothing that can ever match that,” he said.
“They get back a feeling of identity in the grey shirt and, most importantly, they get back a sense of purpose and a feeling of value.”
Mr Weinert now feels more positive about the future.
“I really want to rebuild, absolutely. My hope is that we will be rebuilt within two years,” he said.
“The professionalism, the compassion and the teamwork and the love that Team Rubicon have shown me will be never forgotten.”