Living in the Yarra and Dandenong Ranges is beautiful but the area is vulnerable to disasters, Belinda says. From bushfires and intense storms to fallen trees and frequent loss of electricity and phone reception, mobilising and preparing mothers is critical to community wellbeing.
“Mothers are the keepers of our children’s health and wellbeing. They’re also wise and knowledgeable, experienced and talented.” Belinda says. “Our vision is to ensure that mums in our community are connected and can thrive in a hills environment.”
Belinda says that MotHs facilitates everything from practical workshops, information sessions, coordinating disaster recovery and advocating for local service improvements.
“In 2019, we had a massive storm and in a single night more than 25,000 trees — many weighing over 100 tonnes — fell in the forest that surrounded us. We lost all phone reception for five days, power for 21 days and nbn for 71. We were afraid to use our chainsaws and equipment to help clear our way out because if someone got injured, there was no way of getting medical attention,” Belinda says.
Since then, Belinda has created online community information hubs that aid disaster preparedness. “We’ve created an online ‘sleeper’ group that will activate if the area is anticipating a natural disaster,” she says. “One of the challenges during natural disasters is getting a consistent and clear message out across social media, so the group can streamline and coordinate that whole process.”
Belinda says another challenge in the Yarra is large trees that can often fall and block the road. “These trees are called Mountain Ash, but also often referred to as Widow Makers. In total stillness they can suddenly drop massive branches,” she says. “If you’re taking the kids to school, these can often block the road. It’s simple to clear them with a chainsaw, but we needed to train and prepare the mums in how to use them safely and effectively.”
MotHs also runs community information sessions. “A lot of people buy their insurance but don’t necessarily check if they’re covered for specific disasters. I wanted to make sure people were informed and covered by their insurance to prevent future difficulties.”
With many people moving out of the cities and into places like the Yarra and Dandenong Ranges, Belinda is keen to help more newcomers connect to their community. “We’re trying really hard to build those networks and ensure local knowledge and social capital are retained in the mountains.”
“The forest is beauty and it is danger,” she says. “What I love about this place is more than just the beauty of animals and the environment, but the people are so determined, resilient and self-sufficient.”
Want to find out more about empowering mothers with the resources and skills to thrive? You can check out Belinda’s work with A Brave Life and learn how you can support their cause, or find information about Mums of the Hills through their LinkedIn and Melissa’s range of resources for people living in the Yarra and Dandenong Ranges.