VALLEY TRAGEDY: Rochelle Roberts sits on the landing to her partially burnt out home in Yamba.
VALLEY TRAGEDY: Rochelle Roberts sits on the landing to her partially burnt out home in Yamba.

A HELPING HAND

By EMMA CORNFORD ecornford@dailyexaminer.com.au

ON Christmas night, Rochelle Roberts and her five children were sitting at her parents' house at Yamba.

As they sat talking in the kitchen, Rochelle's younger sister came running inside with news Rochelle's home was on fire.

Rochelle dashed outside and ran to her home next door, only to find two of the bedrooms well alight.

Thankfully none of her family was in the house at the time, but by the time the alarm was raised and the fire extinguished, Rochelle and her five children ? Reuben, 10, Luke, 8, Shaquil, 8, Bendalene 7 and Brianna 3 ? had lost almost everything in the blaze that engulfed their home.

The children's Christmas presents, their beds, linen, clothing, new school uniforms, most of their electrical appliances ? all destroyed.

"We just cried. We all sat there and cried for the house," Rochelle said yesterday.

"I'd only recently got the kids the double bunks ? they'd only slept in them once or twice."

It is the second recent blow for the family -- Rochelle's partner and the father of her children died on December 6.

At the moment the family is sleeping in the spare bedroom of R

Although the house is insured and will eventually be rebuilt, contents of the home were not insured and Rochelle's Aunty Patricia Laurie is appealing to the people of the Clarence Valley for help.

Ms Laurie, who is also secretary of the Birrigan Gargle Aboriginal Land Council, has set up an account for people to help the family.

"But it's not just money," she said.

"If people could donate anything ? linen, beds, clothing for the kids, food, furniture, electrical appliances, whatever they can spare to help them start again.

"It's very sad and very traumatic for the whole family. To lose their father and then have everything go up on Christmas night. It's tragic."

nANYONE wishing to make a monetary donation to the family can do so through the Yamba Commonwealth Bank. Donations can be made through any branch into the Rochelle Roberts Appeal fund in the Birrigan Gargle Aboriginal Land Council account.

To donate furniture, clothing or other goods, contact Patricia Laurie on 0400 416 234. The family is also looking for a shed or other storage space where they can keep donati



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