31 October 2023
A Fire Inside - For ‘Spud’ it’s personal
“You’re face to face with a cowboy. A strong man who’s lost everything and yours is the shoulder he’s crying on. You have to be their strength. I think that’s the help reflex in you.” - Judi “Spud” Hindson, Claims Assessor.
Q: How long have you been working on the frontline of disasters for?
I’ve been in this industry for thirty-one years and on the ground as a property claims assessor for thirteen of those. From floods to fires, I’ve pretty much seen it all. That was until the summer of 2019–20. From Buxton to Kangaroo Valley, to Batemans Bay and beyond, the scale of the fires was matched only by the scale of the help people needed.
Q: Can you tell us about what your role entails?
My role is to help assess the damage, so claims can be processed as fast as possible. But it’s more than that. It’s about being available to listen to their heartbreaking story. They’ll be standing there talking to you with the clothes on their back, which is the only thing they’ve got left, but they need to share their tragedy. It is their story to tell, and it becomes your story to help them.
Q: During the Black Summer bush fires, can you describe what you experienced?
I had the toughest of cowboys’ sob in my arms, I saw children too traumatised to talk and watched mothers not knowing where their children would spend the night. I recall driving to properties, some of them really remote, and, while you never, ever, know what you’re going to be confronted with, what you do know is that your sole purpose is to help -whether it’s organising a water tank, medical supplies, emergency accommodation, emergency funds, counselling, getting a boundary fence fixed to keep their surviving cattle safe or even helping children replace a melted collection of matchbox cars, the desire to help is profound.
I’ve shed many tears with customers, and not necessarily shed them face to face, but you get in the car, and you think, ‘God, I just wish I could build them a house. I wish I could bring their cat and dog back.
Q: How tough is it to go from house to house and see people at their lowest?
When I was seven, my own house caught alight, so I understand what it’s like to lose everything and to have to rebuild. I guess that’s where my compassion and my understanding of people comes from. I always try and put myself in their position. How would I feel if someone knocked on my door and they were there to assess my property? I think the most important thing is to treat people with respect and empathy. Everyone’s needs are different, and sometimes it’s the smallest things that can make the biggest difference.
Q: In ‘A Fire Inside you talk about the Help Reflex – do you think we are all hardwired to help?
The help reflex isn’t something you can teach. That urge to help people is my fire inside. These people are desperate and often feel abandoned when this happens. To have the ability to get things moving and authorised, and to be completely available for such vulnerable and traumatised people, that’s empowering for me. Walking away, knowing that I’ve helped someone when they need it most, that’s the power of help.
Just like ‘Spud’ we all have ‘A Fire Inside’. Helping others is what Australians do best. And with natural disasters increasing in intensity and frequency , help is more important than ever. NRMA Insurance is proud to be the founding partner of the Australian Resilience Corp. an army of helpers to harness the collective power of communities. Everyone has a role to play. Find out yours.