Raising the roof for the kindness of strangers

Cousins Lucas Davies and Mick Watson and young Knox finish up their holiday in Nambucca
Cousins Lucas Davies and Mick Watson and young Knox finish up their holiday in Nambucca

Lucas Davies and Mick Watson had never been to Nambucca before.

"It's beautiful here, isn't it?" Lucas enthuses.

The two tradies and cousins from Melbourne's eastern suburbs had planned to travel to Pambula on the South Coast with their families for their Summer break.

But the bushfires put a stop to those plans.

They arrived in Nambucca Heads on Sunday, not really aware that we here had suffered a similar fate to those on the South Coast just two months ago.

While they'd planned for a fortnight of rest and recuperation after a big year, they'd also brought their work boots just in case any opportunity to help arose.

Lucas' wife Naomi scanned social media to see if there was anyone who needed assistance.

She reached out to Rebecca (Beck) Beverley who has been one of the main hands organising the South Arm community's recovery, and Beck pointed them in the direction of a local couple desperate for some help to put a roof over their heads - not the easiest thing to do when all your tools have been destroyed.

The boys have been busy building tunnels and demolishing level crossings in Melbourne for John Holland, but they have a solid backgrounding in carpentry - so this job was the perfect fit for them.

Still, they had no idea what to expect when they set off early the next morning for South Arm.

"As we drove in for the last kilometre we just saw piles of tin where houses used to be," Mick said.

"Everything was just black," Lucas said.

"When we got to the property, we saw a camper set up beneath a frame of a house which hadn't burnt. But everything else had just melted around it."

They were shocked the pair had been living like that for months.

He said we were the first people he's had come to help. The Government's done nothing for him because he's insured.

Lucas Davies

Lucas and Mick struggled to hold in their overwhelming emotions as this local property owner told them tale after harrowing tale of his escape from the fire.

"He tried so hard to save his house but he was forced to abandon it, and he was lucky to get away - he had to run as he watched his car go up in flames," Mick said.

"He kept telling us stories and we were blown away."

They left after a full day's work and a couple of beers, the roof pretty much done.

"If he can't get the rest of the screws done we'll go back there to help him finish it off," they said.

Naomi, and Mick's partner, Lesley, were also out at the South Arm Hall today, helping to sort through the piles of donations there.

When the Guardian News first approached them, they were hesitant to agree to an interview.

"We don't want to be spruiked," Lucas said.

"We just did it because it's the right thing to do - we didn't need any recognition."

They eventually okayed the interview in the hope it might prompt someone else to do the same.

A lot of help is needed out there. Their spirit's broken, I think. The guy we helped said it was the first day he's felt happiness since the day of the fires.

Mick Watson

Lucas adds: "I mean, we're sitting here [in the Big 4 Holiday Park], beers in hand and talking about going fishing - and there's blokes out there with nothing. What we did was nothing special - it's just the right thing to do, isn't it?"

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