On Saturday 21 December 2019, as the hills around Lithgow lit up with flames, the Lithgow and District Workmen’s Club threw open their doors to the local community.
As the designated Evacuation Centre for the area, the Workies Club transformed from an entertainment and dining venue into a place of refuge for a city under siege by the Black Summer bushfires.
The Club became a haven from the hellish conditions created by the Gospers Mountain fire, providingpeoplebattlingtheblazewithfood,accommodationandemergencysupport.
Staff at the Workies Club made the most of the limited facilities to cater for their community, putting the small kitchen to the best use, as more and more people came through the doors.
Now, thanks to $683,349 in Federal Government funding under the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants program, the Lithgow Workies Club will undergo a significant kitchen infrastructure and equipment upgrade.
Federal Member for Calare and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, Andrew Gee, said this latest round of bushfire recovery funding will help prepare the city for future emergency events.
“I was in Lithgow on that dreadful day in December when the inferno hit,” said Minister Gee.
“I was standing outside the Workies Club as the emergency was at its height. The air was filled with choppers, sirens, and smoke. I could see homes close by catching alight. The heat from the flames could be felt from the carpark. Large numbers of residents arrived at the Club seeking safety.
“In the middle of the terrible emergency on that terrible day, the Lithgow Workies Club, serving as Lithgow’s evacuation centre, was an oasis of calm and compassion. The staff of the Workies Club, as well as all the volunteers and emergency and support agencies, were simply outstanding.
“Community members started arriving at the Club, and cars towing trailers filled with farm animals pulled up. Nobody was turned away, and all were made to feel welcome by the
calm, friendly and familiar staff at the Lithgow Workies Club – who were no doubt worried about their own family, friends and properties.
“Thestaff,workingfromasmall kitchen,providedcountlessmealstowearyfirefightersand those who had nowhere else to go.
“I saw firsthand how crucial the Workies Club was in getting Lithgow through that emergency and so I’m delighted that the Australian Government is supporting a significant kitchen and equipment upgrade at the Lithgow Workies Club with a $683,349 grant!
“With the funding, new kitchen equipment will be installed which will vastly improve the Club’s efficiency and capability to respond to emergencies, with greater safety to employees, evacuees, emergency personnel.
“The Club will put in a heated ‘grab-and-go’ area which will enable patrons to quickly pick up hot meals – instead of cold sandwiches – which will see emergency services able to rapidly fuel up with a warm feed before or after their shift.
“New flooring will also be installed in the service area to improve safety for staff.
“The upgrade will also allow the Club to cater for large groups of people, like tour groups arriving by bus or train, as Lithgow continues to grow into a must-visit tourist destination.
“The growth of the catering capability at the Lithgow Workies will secure existing jobs and create new roles within the business and throughout the Lithgow community.
“Our region was devastated by the bushfires and recovery is an ongoing process which is going to take years.
“One thing we know about Australia is that bushfires will come again.
“We’ve already had previous rounds of significant bushfire recovery funding, with the Lithgow Workies Club receiving $486,747 for a fixed diesel generator under the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery funding program last year.
“Recovery efforts and funding need to occur over the long term and that is what this latest round aims to do,” Mr Gee said.
The Lithgow Workies Club was awarded funding to complete the kitchen and equipment upgrade as part of the Australian Government’s Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants program.
It is one of 524 community projects funded as part of the $390 million grants program, which was established to assist communities to recover from the devastating 2019-20 bushfires.
The Australian Government has added an additional $110 million to the program to provide extrasupporttothoselivinginaffectedcommunities,includingLithgow.