From fires, to floods, to the pandemic, the Shoalhaven has experienced hit after hit over the past 18 months.
The region was left devastated by the Currowan fire in December 2019, which burnt for 74 days, destroying nearly 500 thousand hectares and destroying 312 homes.
Now, our locals' resilience will feature in a special television series to be aired nationally across regional Australia.
'Living on the South Coast - Shoalhaven Recovers' is the brainchild of two locals, executive producer and Walkley-nominated documentary maker Michael Pignataro and former Shoalhaven City Deputy Mayor Allan Baptist OAM.
The series features the stories of Shoalhaven business owners, passionate community champions and volunteers who share their own experiences about navigating the hardships of the past 18-months.
Included in the series is Alison Baker, the owner of Banksia Park Cottages who lost her Kangaroo Valley home, with fire damaging multiple cottages.
In the series, Alison tells her story of the Currowan fire being in the background of her summer.
"The Currowan fire burned for five weeks before it got to us," she said.
"So we were never surprised with the fires like other communities, but the fire did bomb us. The nature of it meant that a five kilometre strip clashed to bring the hottest winds and do the most damage in our area.
"We have 100 acres and we had a 700 tree olive grove, six cottages, our own home, various infrastructure from barbeques to communal areas. We managed to save four of the cottages, but the rest was gone.
Alison is still rebuilding and said the process is "exhausting and endless," but is grateful for the community support.
"When we arrived back at the property after the fires, friends arrived with trailers and with mulch and buckets and gloves," she said.
"People coming to help and do the heavy lifting was just amazing, and friends who continued to look after us on this journey.
"We feel very fortunate because we've been able to live in a cottage on our property throughout this. We've been able to manage the rebuild, but you do get up every day with a very long list of tasks.
"We'll be pleased when the house is built but the property will never be the same."
Member of the Nowra Show Society management committee Wendy Woodward is also featured in the series and recounts how the society banded together to support one during trying times.
"The Nowra Show is such a broad family, we have people who like bees, stock, flowers, to industry. It's such a broad canvas that the fires affected all of us in different ways," she said.
"However, last year we decided to go ahead and we were the only show in this area to go ahead. Although on that weekend, it poured so much that we broke the drought.
"We knew we would run at a loss, but despite the rain, everyone came and it was such a fabulous show. We were over the moon."
CEO of Phyco Health Dr Pia Winberg also shared the challenges she faced when setting up Australia's first seaweed food brand factory in Huskisson.
"We were building our brand new factory about a month before the fire started," she said.
"We had about a million dollars of new equipment and systems to put in place and then the fires hit. It affected us in a number of ways. I ended up stranded in Huskisson in a concrete floored factory with nothing in it and having to spend nights there.
"Otherwise, because we were building this new factory, we had equipment that was being made in Nowra, so manufacturers had lost their farms, properties, and business equipment. It became a real struggle."
After facing COVID-19 related challenges, Dr Winberg said the factory is now almost complete.
"The documentary offers a real sense of pride and resilience and moving through this. It shows a feeling of gusto and shows we can do this," she said.
Program producer Allan Baptist said the unbridled support from local businesses and community was pivotal to bringing the project to life.
"I want to thank everyone who contributed," he said.
"The nature of the show is very positive. I hope the local impact of the series helps people feel proud of their place and to remember what has happened, but for it to not be a dark memory."
The first episode will premiere on Saturday April 24 at 4.30pm on the WIN Network, while the second and third episodes will air May 1 and May 8 at 4.30pm.
Local sponsors include:
- Milandra Group
- Shoalhaven Tourism
- Air Affairs Australia
- Hanlon Windows
- Berry Chamber of Commerce and Tourism
- Shoalhaven Business Chamber
- Kangaroo Valley Chamber of Tourism and Commerce
- Build Platinum
- The Heads Hotel
- Huskisson Hotel