Unions support their members through the bushfire crisis

Eimear test O'Sullivan

The ETU was proud to support long time member Matthew Kidson with assistance from our bushfire relief fund when his house burnt down on one of the hottest days of the year.

Matthew was sitting inside his Hunter Valley home watching television in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve. It was a windy day with extreme temperatures reaching 47C.

The next thing he knew, the intense heat had sparked a fire in the lane behind his property and flames were creeping under the fence and across the lawn. Matthew didn’t have time to grab anything other than his phone. He didn’t even have a pair of shoes on as he escaped the fire entering his house.

The fire brigade came, but the house and all his belongings were lost.

“I stood there barefoot as the fire brigade put out the flames,” said Matthew.

Matthew stayed in emergency accommodation for a few weeks and has been in a rental home ever since.

During a call to the ETU to suspend his membership the ETU found out about Matthew’s story.

“I got a call back the next day from the ETU offering assistance,” said Matthew.

Initially he refused help as he did have insurance on the house, but later he found out none of his belongings inside the house were covered. He was devastated, having refurnished the whole place only 15 months before the fire.

“That’s when the ETU came through and things weren’t so bleak after that,” said Matthew.

The ETU was glad to help a member in need and gave him funds to replace his furniture and belongings to help him get back on his feet.

International unions also generously contributed to the bushfire assistance fund including local branches 66, 570, 661 and 527 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) and local branches Northwest 9/0541 and SC/164/BAE  of Unite the Union (Unite). 

“This assistance will go a long way towards helping me re-establish myself and getting my house back to what it was. I’m so grateful for all the contributions, from around the world. It’s incredible that people I’ve never even met are helping me through this,” he said.

“It’s restored hope in humanity for me.”

It’s been a tough year for Matthew but a rebuild is underway and if all goes to plan he hopes to be back in his house by Christmas.

We wish you the best of luck Matthew!

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