Fire victims start again

Sandy and Garry Elwood on their scorched property. Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d422669
Sandy and Garry Elwood on their scorched property. Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d422669

Six months on from the bushfire that razed their home of 25 years, the Elwood family are ready to rebuild and next month will move into a shed on the land where their house once stood.

With much relief, they received their insurance payout within three weeks of losing everything. Some of their neighbours who went through the same ordeal in January are still waiting for insurance companies to pay them out.

‘A lot of people are having huge problems, but we have been lucky,’ Mrs Elwood said.

The owners of the empty block across the road from them are still waiting for an insurance payment. Some residents are also seeking legal advice.

Swan Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sandra Wallis said she was still waiting for insurance to come through to compensate for severe damage to her Mt Helena home.

‘This is a time of severe trauma for people and insurance companies still haven’t learnt to deal with that ” the industry needs a good shake up,’ she said.

‘We’re lucky we had somewhere to go because there are people who don’t.

‘Our home is covered for four times what we will receive and we have the highest level of insurance we can get in our location.’

Mundaring Bendigo Bank finance officer Karen Beale has been co-ordinating the donations and community affairs meetings since January.

She said it was disappointing to see some families in limbo while they battled their insurance companies.

‘Some of them have already started rebuilding then there are others who are still fighting with their insurance company “and there’s a big gap in the middle,’ she said.

‘I feel like a lot of them are being bullied ” they’re being pushed to the point where they’ll just accept a lower offer.

‘My mum and dad lost their house and they got their money within 10 days, no questions asked.

‘We need to really get it out there that there are really some people still struggling ” the majority of people are moving forward bit by bit but there are still people who have been forgotten in the process.’

A spokesman for Insurance Council of Australia said protocols were in place for dealing with traumatised clients.

‘When the ICA declares a catastrophe, it establishes a taskforce, activates its disaster hotline, with member companies prioritising claims,’ he said.

‘For the Perth Hills bushfire catastrophe, insurance companies prioritised claims, particularly from policyholders whose properties were destroyed or suffered significant damage.’

The Shire of Mundaring plans to send out a survey to residents affected by the bushfire to document their experiences with insurance companies.

Results of the survey will be forwarded to the Insurance Council and advice can be sought from there.