A place to call home


The Stechers lost their house in 2009’s Black Saturday’s fires. After three weeks in a relative’s lounge room and a year in Eltham, they moved back to Strathewen.

For another year they lived in a one bedroom unit on the spot that their old house had stood. Then a block around the corner came on the market. They purchased it in mid 2010, and so began the journey of re-building their home.

Like a lot of journeys, it involved a caravan. In the weeks after the fire, The Good Guys had donated six caravans to the fire brigade that Wes volunteered for. By chance, six of the volunteers had lost their home, so they each got a caravan. The Stechers towed theirs with them for three years as they moved to different houses, but before it could be set up on their new block, the site had to be cleared.

Consecutive wet winters had covered the land around Strathewen with a healthy blanket of regrowth.  Wes and Georgina not only had to clear the old house site and a space for their portable and caravan, but also had to relay new underground power and phone lines after discovering the existing ones were full of water.

In March 2011, they moved onto their block, and set up their caravan and one of two portable homes that the Strathewen community had obtained. While limited on space, the portable was an improvement on the one bedroom unit they had been in previously. Coupled with the caravan and a shipping container, they have managed winter with their four children and dog.

Now, a shed has started to emerge.

While the construction of a shed may seem like a minor thing, it’s big news on the Stecher’s block. Wes and Georgina run a business from home and one of their bedrooms is full of filing cabinets. The shed will ease some of the storage and space pressures and give them another space.

However the shed is not just four walls and some extra storage space. More importantly, it’s progress. The roar of the bobcat; the laughter of tradies; the buzz of power tools; these are all signs that the rebuild really is happening, that progress is being made.

With work scheduled to start on the house before the end of the year, the Stecher family are looking forward to a summer of progress. February will be the three-year anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires, and the Stechers are optimistic that they’ll be in their home mid 2012, two years after they purchased the property.

Until then, they’re enjoying their last months of intimate living quarters, and making the most of being able to sweep the house in under five minutes and walk from one end to the other in eight large steps.

Project: Aftermath Client: ABC Open Location: Strathewen, Victoria, Australia Date: December 2011 Producer: Benj Binks Writer: Benj Binks Director: Benj Binks Cinematographer: Benj Binks Composer: Ned Beckley