Fire victims angered by bushtucker box smash and grab
THIEVES have smashed the chains securing the metal money box at the Glenreagh Bushtucker Box.
It was set up by Tracy Champan after the devastating fires in November last year to help fellow locals care for native wildlife.
In addition to native bird seed and pellets for kangaroos and wallabies there was a donation box inside.
In recent months the large wooden tuckerbox has become a symbol of the community's resilience and compassion after fires tore through the area destroying homes and livelihoods.
Reliving the experience is still an extremely traumatic experience for Orara Valley residents like Tracy.
"Only 50 metres across the road we had 40 to 50 foot flames. We all said we wouldn't leave but one by one neighbours texted me and said 'Trace I'm leaving, Trace I'm leaving' but we had elderly horses so we had to stay," Tracy said.
"You could hear it just roaring. Literally it was raining down branches that were on fire."
When she went to check on the Tuckerbox last week she found the strong box for donations gone.
"It was an expensive bespoke metal box welded onto a thick chain - very solid steel.
"So somebody has got a grinder and literally ground the box off the chain."
She has been a native wildlife carer for 15 years and is in the process of establishing an animal therapy business at her property.
"It was set up because all the native animals were starving and everybody wanted to help them. It became like a 24-hour one-stop community hub outside my farm.
"We used a recycled aviary and glass doors and put it up on legs. There were macropod pellets for wallabies and kangaroos and wild seed mix for small and large birds.
"People drive past at all hours of the night and day and help themselves and take food back to their farms and houses because they couldn't go into the bush and feed animals because it was too dangerous and we weren't granted permission."
People also leave messages on a white board within the tuckerbox sharing their stories of how they're using the food at their properties.
While she estimates there would've been no more than $80 in the box, the "low act" has left her bitterly disappointed but she won't be deterred from her mission.
"I hadn't checked it in a few days but there had been lots of people stopping by in the school holidays and I'd noticed a huge increase in usage and probably donations.
"We've gone through bushfires and then floods and now this all of a sudden randomly happens.
"But this isn't about us, it's about the wildlife. There's a lot less birds around and I am very concerned about the wallabies - they are looking very skinny - they're not in a good state at all. We need to keep doing this."
In the meantime she's looking for another metal box up to the task.
"I've had a lot of people say they could come by and drop off money somewhere else but they need to hold that thought.
"It's not easy to find something that strong. If I got something from Bunnings it's just not going to cut it."