PHOTO: Colac, Victoria – Wikipedia

The embers might have died out but the dairy farming community of Colac in Victoria will not be subdued following devastating February fires.

In the wake of the destruction, Government funding to provide 40 B-trains of donated hay from other part of Victoria, SA and NSW has been spent, and most of the hay has been consumed by stock.

Twenty-six homes were razed during the fires, a further 40 were damaged, and countless milking sheds and paddocks were destroyed.

This is a story of real people facing real challenges.

“Many homes in the areas surrounding the fire zone have no drinking water as it has beed tainted by ash and soot,” local resident and One Agency business owner Merryl Hilton said. “People haven’t just lost homes – they’ve lost their livelihoods as well.”

The ash in the tank water make it too putrid to drink, there is no way of getting rid of the silt from the tanks and it’s impossible to replace the millions of litres required across the region. With a cold and dry winter climate, there is no quick fix to replenishing supplies.

Most hay stacks and sheds burned in the fires, adding to the need for more to be brought in from outside. Hay stocks won’t replenish again till August-September as the ground is too cold for any seeds to grow now and there won’t be rain to irrigate it.

Mrs Hilton’s farm and hay supplies were spared in the maelstrom, allowing her to move swiftly into fundraising mode to buy drinking water and have it freighted-in.

She quickly raised $1,800 for, among other things, water and other esentials for people as well as the office being a drop off point for other donations of food clothing and bedding. Mrs Hilton then made plans together with the support of the ANZ bank to hold an auction raffle and fun night on April 21st at the City Bowls Club. Donations for the auction have come from far and wide.

Auctioneer on the evening will be one of Mrs Hilton’s real estate competitors. “We will be swapping our corporate logo hats on the evening,” she said. “Normally you wouldn’t want a rival at an event but this is about the wider community, and letting egos go.”

The “milestone” at the auction is to raise $20,000 worth of hay for stock feed. “But we would love to raise twice as much as that,” she said. “I don’t think people know about the catastrophe that befell the town of Colac. People didn’t just lose homes.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Hilton will continue to list properties in the area with her business One Agency Merryl Hilton, but her focus has been decidedly sharpened … now it includes fundraising for her embattled town.

To donate visit and find out more at the South West Vic Hay Drive Fundraising Event on Facebook.


For more information, high resolution images, or to arrange an interview

with Merryl Hilton please contact:
Susanne Mitchell | 0403 395 300 |