This article first appeared in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph on 23 September 2020.
Mal Rixon narrowly survived the bushfires of last summer, but his bus was not as lucky. That is where a charity headed by Sir Peter Cosgrove stepped in to help.
Mal Rixon had to lock himself in a cool room to narrowly survive last summer’s ferocious south coast bushfires but emerged only to find one of his buses worth tens of thousands of dollars had been destroyed.
Fortunately, the manager of Mogo’s Rixon’s Bus Services found help in high places and the Business Council’s bushfire charity BizRebuild - spearheaded by former governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove - stepped in to give him a much needed leg up.
Sir Peter travelled to the south coast on Tuesday to meet with Mr Rixon and inspect a new bus that replaced the destroyed vehicle thanks to a $87,000 grant from BizRebuild.
He told The Daily Telegraph that he thought Mr Rixon taking refuge in the cool room for four hours as a menacing fire front descended on his Mogo property was the stuff of an Aussie legend in the making.
BizRebuild chair Sir Peter Cosgrove with Malcolm Rixon. Picture: Jonathan Ng
“It’s one of those incredible stories of courage and survival - he stayed to defend,” Sir Peter said.
“That’s Aussie legend stuff in the cool room ...I wonder, he might have had a beer in there.”
For some elderly residents living in the area, the loss of the burnt bus had meant they had no way to visit the outside world.
But the grant to buy a replacement wheelchair accessible bus has allowed Rixon’s to resume its door-to-door services transporting people to medical appointments, taking them on nursing home day trips and providing the only disabled transport service between the south coast and Canberra.
Sir Peter said NSW’s bushfire victims must not be forgotten despite the onslaught of coronavirus affecting all parts of the state.
“These people are stoic Aussies and they understand there’s not much point in screaming at the sky - you sort of knuckle down and do what you can,” he said.
“As we know, the bushfire recovery is a real ongoing problem and we’ve had to try and figure out a way to keep it a focus of philanthropy by business.”
As for Mogo, pop up shops are up and running in the town thanks to grants from BizRebuild and, despite the doom and gloom of the pandemic, there’s a little bit of optimism creeping back in.
Mr Rixon, who had told his family to leave his property while he stayed to defend, said the donation had touched his heart after his brush with death.
“To receive a gift like this is just so heart-warming, it has revived our spirits and given us purpose and a renewed desire to carry on and improve our service to the community,” he said.