Structure fire. Footscray, was the message on the phone. Then the news said it was a fire in the market. Then it was Little Saigon, the Vietnamese market in Footscray. What was a structure suddenly had a whole new meaning.
It was a market place, but it was more, a meeting place, a place of wonder, a place of dealings, smells, sounds, sights that were not Australian, but oh so Australian. Transactions take place, some monetary, some personal. I first went there in my twenties, living not far from there, and had my mind rearranged from everything I experienced. Growing up in European suburbia, the Vietnamese market was something else. An old school friend, a teacher in the area, lamented at its loss, as they took Year 7 kids there to expose them to another culture, the exotic food. It has a particular place in the Vietnamese community as a place of employment and business, and belonging. IT has a place in the Footscray community as a shopping destination, and it has a broader place in the Australian society as a demonstration of the cohesive modern society we have become (despite the noisy sabre rattling of a few).
This has all happened in the lead up to Christmas, a devastating time for the stall holders.The local council, traders association, and Vietnamese community are working hard to find another location to enable the market to go on. This is enlightened thinking from the council, and others. I recall in 2004, we had storms that affected a shopping strip in Fairfield in the North east. It was treated more as an inconvenience than a disaster. But there was a significant impact on trade in the strip. The local bookstore, having taken on more stock for Christmas, lost $100,000 because the additional stock was not insured. We tried to secure community development funding. I was pretty confident, as we had secured millions for ” real disasters” of bushfires and the Bali Bombings. I was very surprised when the minister refused to sign off on $50,000 for the local council to support the community, but they didn’t see the need. It is good that some things have changed.
The market also was home to the offices of a local youth support foundation, who lost Christmas presents and school materials for local disadvantaged youth. The losses for this important local organisation is immense, although l suspect the tangible ones will be easier to fix, children, Christmas, and adversity should press the right buttons among the community. It will be the loss of the workplace, the disruption, that will impact hard on the staff and volunteers, again, particularly at this important time.
These types of events, seemingly innocuous, have a ripple event. It might be a structure, but it means so much more, and these are the questions we, as recovery managers need to ask, what does this mean.
Another great example of our great, cohesive society, the great Seddon band, Way Out West