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Black Summer Series: Kangaroo Island Bushfires

21 December 2020


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Catastrophic conditions 

As we reflect on a year like no other, the end of 2020 marks the first anniversary of the Black Summer Bushfires, which can only be described as the worst bushfire season on record. For the residents of Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia, the bushfires were the largest in the island’s history.  

Kangaroo Island is a resilient community, but nothing could have prepared them for the catastrophic fire conditions they faced through-out the 2019/2020 spring-summer period. Days of extreme heat, strong winds and low humidity creating the perfect storm for dangerous fire weather.

On the 20th December dry lightning struck the island sparking fires, that would ultimately merge into a complex fire system, which would ravage well into the new year and see hundreds of firefighters deployed to battle the blazes and mass evacuations.

The challenging aftermath

The Kangaroo Island fires burnt 211,500 hectares, almost half the island, and tragically killed two people. Fifty-six people lost their homes and many businesses and farms were lost, countless numbers of livestock, and precious habitat and wildlife perished.

The impact was unprecedented, but the community united and the road to recovery continues.

For Peter Martin and the team at Elders Insurance Kangaroo Island, the aftermath of the bushfires was a challenging time with more than 100 Elders Insurance customers impacted. 

One year on the support remains

To mark the anniversary, we visited Kangaroo Island to reflect on the bushfire catastrophe with Elders Insurance clients impacted by the events. They share with us their harrowing experience of the fires but also the relief in having the support of their local Elders Insurance Agent during their time of need.

Greg Downing, Livestock Producer, Kangaroo Island SA
“My family have had their insurance with Elders Insurance for more than 20 years. Our local Agent, Peter, is like one of the family. It was a ferocious fire, tornado winds, black skies. I always knew in the back of my head I was well insured. I could trust in Peter’s advice and his local knowledge. I was always comfortable that if everything I owed was destroyed, we were going to be fine. Right through-out the fires Peter kept in touch. To have a good relationship with your insurance agent, who knows what is going on in your area, is so, so important. I couldn’t be happier with Elders Insurance.”


Bill Buttrose, Local Producer, Kangaroo Island SA
“It wasn't like any normal fire. We've never seen anything like it on the island, it went absolutely mad. We went through the fire storm to get home but we couldn't save the house, there was nothing we could do. Every single items in the house, gone. We lost all 8,000 sheep, four houses, four wool sheds and about 90km of fencing. We were never going to survive a fire like that. It was all very overwhelming but we just had to get on with it and clean up. Without the insurance we would have been a total disaster. We would have struggled to ever recover. Elders Insurance really did a very good job. They honoured everything, and quickly. Within a week of the fires we had ordered our new sheds and the houses were on their way. We felt like Peter, our Agent, really went into bat for us. I can't fault him."


Jeff Ness, Resident, Kangaroo Island SA
"There was this big red glow and I was 90% sure I'd just watched my house burn down. When you've got someone like Peter there he puts your mind at ease. He's a country person, and he knows what country people need for their insurance. Straight after the fires he called to say the Elders Insurance team were here for us. All we had to do was give Peter a call and he'd run through what we'd have to do. There was no pressure. We could do it on our terms. He gave us some great advice, if we weren't sure about something he was always happy to discuss it. We got paid out on some critical items quickly, which meant I could rebuild the shed, get power on. It helped so much to be able to move on and do the jobs you have to do to start the rebuild process. It is natural to spend a certain amount of time dwelling, when everything around you is burnt, you are facing it every single day, it's hard. Having good people around you, like your insurance agent, who can talk it through with you, really helps."



At Elders Insurance our Agents are here to help. Your local Agent will make sure you have the right cover, tailored to your needs, and most importantly should the worst happen, and you need to make a claim, we’ll be there to help. Contact us today to learn more.  

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