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Our family home was one of the victims of the Sydney Storms, but instead of compassion, we were met by unspoken “serves you right” smugness.
Before the violent storms of last weekend, I figured all property damage/loss was worthy of compassion. But after our family home took a beating at the cruel hands of the elements, my wife and I instead faced mockery. Apparently the homes in Vaucluse or Collaroy don’t garner the same compassion given to homeowners in Picton.
Will insurance cover this? Yes and no.
Will we survive this? Absolutely.
Should our loss be marginalised because of our postcode? No.
Before you make assumptions, I would like to tell you a bit about us. I grew up in Tamworth, the son of a newsagency owner. My mother and father ran one of the least successful newsagency businesses in the region; the loss of tourists to Tamworth their final nail. I was 20 when I saw my father take a loan of $15,000 from his father to start over. I watched my parents fight over money, my father desperate to prove he was going to make the life he promised for my mother on their wedding day in 1961. I used to look at the photo of the two of them, beaming. She, so full of hope at a life with the man of her dreams, and he, so ready to be the best husband and father he could be. But instead I saw a man grappling with the local barber over his haircut price, and letting the phone ring out in fear of who would be on the other end. I vowed to never live that way.
In 1982, I finished a degree in Engineering and also a GradDip in Financial Planning and Management. I started out by working in Tamworth for the bigger Banks and ended up moving through the ranks to eventually oversee a rural loan book worth over $100 million. By 38, I married my wife and we moved to Sydney, where I took over one of the biggest rural finance agencies and was appointed an Associate Fellow at one of the most prestigious business schools in NSW.
But that is my work life; my home life is even more precious. My wife is my best friend and has helped me build a home to raise five children. Each of our children makes us proud, and we spend each Friday night together to have a family meal. Our home is the result of a life of sacrifice, and feeling the fear but doing it anyway. The important thing is, our home is an example that I did not become my father.
The family in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney deserves to be treated with the same feelings of empathy as the families in Picton, or Northern NSW and the Southern Highlands. The reason that won’t happen, is plain prejudice.
We took in images of the Sydney floods which destroyed parts of NSW over the past weekend.
On social media I saw people laugh when restaurants that have had millions invested into them were utterly, ruined. I saw the home in Collaroy that had the pool detached. The reaction from the “online world” is mockery. Ride a wave and point and joke. The tall poppy washed away.
But, the Internet is one thing; reality another. The way we were treated is what necessitated my writing about our experience. Soon after our house was damaged, our first call was to the insurance company. The young man on the other end of the phone warmly queried me about the state of my family and whether we could safely stay in the house, and was empathetic for our loss.
That is, until he asked I confirm my address.
As I did so, the personality drained from his voice and from then on I was just a problem to be dealt with. His silent loathing of our address was near-palpable through the following series of blunt yes/no answers. Clearly, the shoulder to cry on was not needed, because he can afford to fix it.
Let me ask you, why does location factor into compassion?
I don’t believe that the worth of our property, makes us less worthy of compassion than those who have not been as fortunate as us. The family in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney deserves to be treated with the same feelings of empathy as the families in Picton, or Northern NSW and the Southern Highlands. The reason that won’t happen, is plain prejudice.
The next time you mock someone who has endured a loss, consider why you deem them a different type of human to yourself simply because their years of sacrifice and hard work have brought them good fortune.
We are all Aussie battlers, even if our wars are fought with a different vista.