As Australia faces an unprecedented disaster in the ongoing bushfires raging across the country, it has been heart-warming to see the love and care expressed by Northern Grampians Shire communities.
Many residents will remember when a lightning strike started a bushfire in the Grampians in January 2014 which burnt more than 50,000 hectares of land and tragically claimed a life.
Others will remember in January 2006 a fire in Deep Lead that started near Stawell on New Year's Eve and went on to burn vineyards, orchards, flower farms, 68 non-residential structures and decimated 1600 head of livestock.
These are just some of the fires that have touched the communities of the Northern Grampians and surrounds.
All Victorians are taught to be aware of the danger of fires and most of us have been touched by fire disaster in some way.
It is this shared spirit that often brings out the best in people in our communities and this bushfire season, the worst we've seen for many, many years, has been no different.
I commend our local CFA volunteers who not only keep us safe every bushfire season but this year have travelled across the state to lend a hand in some of the worst-affected areas of Victoria. Our gratitude for their heroism and tireless commitment is endless.
Feed chains for fire-affected farmers have been established across the region, residents have donated food, clothing, toys and other goods by the car-load, and financial contributions have surpassed previous disaster relief efforts by incredible margins.
The people of the Northern Grampians and surrounds have shown the kind of compassion and care that makes our region such a special place and, as mayor, makes me incredibly proud to be a member of this community.
Every single person who has donated their time, their money, or food and goods should be commended for their empathy and service to their fellow Australians.
I also urge everyone to be vigilant and prepared as the fire season is not yet over and conditions are particularly dry and dangerous this year. Have your fire plans ready and stay aware of conditions as we move through the summer.
I also urge everyone to take on board the request from Emergency Victoria that the best way to help bushfire-affected communities is to donate money to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal online via the Community Enterprise Foundation or at any Bendigo Bank branch.
Cr Murray Emerson, Mayor - Northern Grampians Shire Council