SAPN members dig deep to get devastated KI’s lights back on
Amidst a summer of devastation brought on by the nation-wide bushfire crisis, the fate of Kangaroo Island has stood out as a singular tragedy.
The island, designated one of Australia’s National Landscapes, is world-renowned for its stunning landscapes, bountiful agricultural output and unique ecosystem — including the critically endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart, found nowhere else on earth.
So Australians have looked on in horror as this summer’s fires have ravaged over a third of KI’s landmass; claiming the lives of two local residents and an estimated half of the island’s marsupial life.
The crisis has also devastated infrastructure, with many power lines around KI downed during the extreme conditions.
That’s where our members come in.
To help restore essential distribution infrastructure, South Australia Power Networks (SAPN) workers from the “big island” have been putting up their hands up for 5-7 day rotations in place of their usual work.
Up to 90 workers at a time have rotated through KI since late December, working alongside the island’s small permanent workforce.
With an accommodation shortage and a mass influx of firefighters and other emergency personnel, many electrical workers have been sleeping five to a room.
And the work itself is hard, both physically and psychologically.
“It’s challenging and also quite depressing for the workers,” says CEPU SA Secretary John Adley. “They’re doing long days out in the charred landscapes, often surrounded by burned animals everywhere.
“Our members are doing a great job of supporting one another, and also supporting the locals. It’s been extra tough on them — this is their home, and it’s devastated.”
Because of their proximity to those affected, the South Australian CEPU has established a Kangaroo Island Bushfire Appeal to help out financially.
All donations made through this appeal go directly to communities in need, to assist in funding much-needed essentials for the immediate crisis and the road to recovery ahead.
Secretary Adley says he simply “can’t believe the resilience of some of the farmers here on KI.”
An image that’s stuck with him is a solo farmer in his 70s taking to the fields to begin the epic task of re-fencing his land — just days after the fires devastated the farm that’s been his livelihood and life’s work.
“People just keep on going,” says John — “they’re getting on with what they have to do.” But the work ahead is immense, and many on KI right now are looking at starting again from scratch, while grappling with the grief of witnessing the land they love in tatters.