Jubullum Aboriginal community member Daniel Walker, Vinnies St Therese Casino Conference president Marlene Landrigan, The Shed of Hope’s Greg Dollin and Vinnies Richmond Regional president Michael Albany with the donated water tank.

The message came to Greg Dollin in a dream: “I was wondering what practical help we might offer those unfortunate people whose homes had been destroyed in the bushfires, and then it came to me… call it a message from God… we could build sheds where they live with their families while assessing the damage and beginning to rebuild their lives.”

It was January 2020, and the fires that had swept through farms and bushland to the west of Casino were finally being brought under control. Rappville was one community badly affected, with homes lost and the Tarmac sawmill, run by the biggest local employer, burnt to the ground.

Property owners on remote holdings around Tabulam, where Greg is based, were among those affected, with buildings gone and vital infrastructure such as solar equipment, water tanks and pumps destroyed.

An adept handyman and something of an inventor, Greg started to create something that was new even for him - a charity that came to be called Shed of Hope.

Relying on donated funds, including a massive $60,000 transfer from a US charity, Shed of Hope has now built around 40 habitable sheds on properties between the Richmond and Clarence Valleys. It is headquartered in a gigantic shed in Tabulam filled with donated furniture, non-perishable food and personal items that are delivered to, or collected by, people still struggling to cope with the impacts of the bushfires.

In Greg’s view, the full recovery is likely to take from five to eight years, with most rural landholders having little choice but to remain on their properties, hence the need for the sheds, built by the charity’s volunteers using largely donated materials. They also undertake site remediation to help get the rebuilding process started.

Shed of Hope’s HQ has become a major hub for the distribution of bushfire relief, including water for the many locals whose tanks were destroyed by fire. Vinnies is one of the charity’s partners and recently donated a new 22,500 litre tank to collect rainwater for filling the portable containers brought in by outlying residents.

“Like Vinnies, we’re here for the long haul,” Greg said.

“The more you get around, the more you realise how badly affected so many people have been. The shed project enables them to stay on their land, and live at least half-comfortable lives while they engage in the rebuilding.”