Blue Mountains bushfire relief

22 January 2020
Bushfire destruction along the Darling Causeway in the Blue Mountains. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


In October 2013 Margaret and Vince Sibbald lost their home of 42 years to the bushfires that destroyed and damaged hundreds of homes in Springwood, Winmalee, Mt Victoria and Yellow Rock.

Their home was located directly behind St Thomas Aquinas Primary School in Springwood, and they are members of St Thomas Aquinas Parish.

They have re-built their home and lives, and have been caring for each other, their family and community ever since. During their recovery CatholicCare was able to offer and provide support to the Sibbalds and other fire-affected residents.

This is a small part of their story.

Margaret Sibbald (far left) at a community garden meeting at CatholicCare’s Springwood Drop-In Centre. Image: CCSS.


By Margaret Sibbald

I had dropped into CatholicCare’s Springwood Drop-In Centre because Father Paul [Parish Priest, St Thomas Aquinas Parish] said I needed to see Celia there. I immediately clicked with Celia and feel like I can tell her about anything. I do have some past trauma and PTSD, and when the bushfires came through, all the trauma came back to me. The fires make me feel like I’m in the middle of it all again.

I have had lots of counselling, but I also healed myself with gardening and thought it could work for the community too. Since gardening was so healing for me, that’s why I thought a community garden would be healing for others. Sharing food also brings people together which is really important.

I spoke to St Thomas Aquinas Primary School and Father Paul about the idea of a community garden and they were very keen on it. Celia came to my house to see how we were going and we discussed the idea too. CatholicCare was able to get it all happening and were fabulous.

I’m thrilled to see the garden is so beautiful now and there are a whole range of people coming together from the parish and the wider community. It demonstrates what we are as a Church.

I think God has intervened so many times throughout all these experiences. God sorted so many bits. I could feel God guiding and encouraging me.

Because of the fires I do get upset, and some people tell me to just forget about it. Some people don’t want to hear anything. But we do have a little group that meets after Mass on Sunday and we just talk and what we say stays there, and it does help, and coming to Springwood Drop-In Centre makes me feel so much better too.

CatholicCare Western Sydney & the Blue Mountains offers bushfire support and recovery programs as well as counselling for anyone affected by bushfire. To get in touch, call Celia on (02) 8843 2545 or 0499 077 511.

Donations to support the work of CatholicCare can be made via: 



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