“There are others worse off than me” is a common response given to 8th Signals Regiment’s Chaplain Paul Ghanem as he does his rounds in the Adelong/Batlow area in southern NSW as part of Operation Bushfire Assist.

He said this was often from people who had lost their homes and livelihoods to the fires.

“Letting them know they are not alone and Australia wants to care for them and support them is a role of the padre,” Chaplain Ghanem said.

“I have sought to encourage victims of the fires to raise their hands and ask for help.

“For this to be done in a coordinated and long-term effective way means breaking the, ‘she’ll be right, look after someone else’, attitude of country people.

“I tell them real resilience and pride is recognising there is a genuine desire on behalf of all Australians to look after our primary producers and country folk who have lost so much.”

Chaplain Ghanem said at times the carnage or people’s pain was in plain sight.

“Just to sit and be with the victims and to leave them with relevant and correct information is what I have sought to do,” he said.

“On the second and third visits, the stories of loss begin to emerge.

“It is then the real work begins – the work of connecting them into their local community, which will be their ongoing support for the days, weeks, months and years ahead.”