Kevin grew up on his parents’ farm in Kilmore East and was a primary school teacher for 23 years before going into full-time farming and a transport business in 2000. In 1976 he married Rhonda.
After the February 2009 Black Saturday fires swept through their property Kevin immediately set about re-fencing. Rhonda’s response to the help they were given was ‘now it’s our turn to help others’ and they sought assistance for neighbours in the rebuilding of theirs.
As the enormity of the catastrophe was revealed this guiding generosity became a rallying point. Kevin and Rhonda took on the task of seeking volunteers and then coordinating them to assist with the removal and the subsequent rebuilding of burnt-out boundary fences. And so began BlazeAid.
The Butlers made their house and shearing shed home for BlazeAid volunteers and headquarters for the management of the operations. This ensured that materials and equipment could be stored and volunteers fed and accommodated. All communications, planning and publicity were undertaken on the property.
Rhonda’s hospitality and generosity in warmly welcoming, feeding and accommodating the army of volunteers and working out the logistics has been an extraordinary feat. In addition, her efforts have extended to the personal care and emotional support of fire survivors.
BlazeAid’s recovery work has continued, following fires and floods in other States, in partnership with local councils and Rotary. Thousands of volunteers have come from all over Australia and overseas on learning of this great compassionate work via worldwide publicity and the BlazeAid website.
The almost 6,000 kilometres of fences re-built by over 14,000 volunteers do not reflect the humanitarian impact on the local communities. The help and hope that BlazeAid brings to rural families after natural disasters cannot be quantified. Throughout the nearly 10 years of BlazeAid’s work Kevin and Rhonda Butler have worked tirelessly to ensure the integrity of what is done for those affected by crisis. They have been meticulous in their management of accounts and funds provided as well as the auditing of equipment and resourcing. This has become a benchmark for rural recovery best practice.
This is service above self. This is true volunteerism as applauded by the Sir John Reid Award.