Archive for February, 2009


Thursday, February 12th, 2009

I was privileged to spend a day working at the Whittlesea Bushfire Crisis Centre as part of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (Vic) volunteer assistance effort, just 4 short days after the massive bushfires wiped out vegetation, homes, farms, businesses, wildlife, livestock and people. Whittlesea is at the base of the hills where Kinglake and Kinglake West were ravaged by bushfire and what some describe as fire storms and fire bombs. While we reflect on policies of whether people should stay and fight or evacuate, when the harsh reality of ravaging flames arrived, many didn’t have sufficient time to make either decision.

As we drove towards Whittlesea you could see the hills ahead as a dark grey backdrop, as opposed to the usual lovely Eucalypt-green-blue hue, with small smoke clouds still being visible in small sections of the forest. Having been a visitor on many occasions to this region while visiting close friends in Kinglake West, traffic was noticeably heavier than usual, and the township of Whittlesea resembled a country carnival. As you enter Whittlesea the cemetery looms on the left, and a large collection of dark suited people were paying respects at a memorial service – some people will be visiting that place regularly over the ensuing weeks.

Turning into the town centre you pass some opportunity shops which now have crowds of people outside and inside collecting what necessities they lack – noticeable were the piles of filled plastic bags, boxes and clothing seemingly spilling out the fronts and sides of these tin buildings – much has been given – maybe even to excess? We proceeded to the community centre where we were halted, questioned and then directed to the tent where Chiropractors were working. The whole area was a hive of activity with numerous services and food vans which refuse to take money for their produce, even when you offered it.

It seemed difficult to differentiate volunteers from victims; some had official aid clothing, while others were wearing texta-drawn bibs offering “free hugs”; everyone you walked past said hello and either asked if they could help you or thanked you for being there.

It was a cool and windy day, starkly contrasted to the soaring thermostat of a few days before, but we worked in an open tent regardless, and adjusted anyone who approached us, even some of the ones that mistook our “Telstra” tent for a place to recharge their mobile phone. I would have liked to adjust everyone that passed us that day, but I had the recurring feeling that many were embarrassed by the amount of care and aid that was available, and seemed reluctant to partake of what could have been freely theirs.

As a chiropractor we not only hear what ails our patients, we also feel what emotion is being stowed in their bodies as we palpate and adjust them, and I felt bodies which were in states of shock, defence, confusion and internalisation. The recurring response to the adjustment was “can I stay there”, as they arose with blurry, relaxed but tired eyes. I’ve worked in a few scenarios now, where the people I adjust are facing severe hardship and crisis and I must share that the Chiropractic adjustment is a wonderful gift to be able to impart – its ability to reduce tension and to somehow impart hope has a powerful effect on people in desperate need.

I couldn’t help think that perhaps reality has not yet completely set in to this community – how can someone grieve over so many things all at once, and at the same time contemplate where they are going to live over the next months, how are they going to earn a living, how do they help their kids understand death and lack, and how do they prepare their lifestyle to somehow avoid this same scenario?

And as we drove out of that pained town, on our way to spend some time with our close friends who had lost their home, business and two immediate family members, it was difficult to think of what could be next for all these displaced people: We could only pray that the wave of humanity will continue and that we will be caring for these people until they have homes and the beginnings of new life and regrowth in their hearts, as this same process of regeneration inevitably unfolds in the natural environs where they live.

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