McKeon family survive catastrophic bushfires and appeal to all Australians for help

Not far from the McKeon's lakeside house - Photo Courtesy: Emma McKeon

Australian Olympic swim star Emma McKeon has issued an impassioned plea to help those families who have lost their homes to Australia’s worst ever bushfires after her own family survived the utter devastation first hand from a normally majestic Lake Conjola, on the New South Wales (NSW) South Coast.

Her Olympian father Ron McKeon and mum Suzie, herself a Commonwealth Games representative, with Olympian brother David McKeon have a house on Lake Conjola and the family were evacuated earlier today – thankful to escape the fire zone that has claimed the life of one man and destroyed over 90 homes.

In total, over 380 homes have been destroyed in NSW since New Year’s Eve, leaving a total of seven people dead along the NSW South Coast while in Victoria two people have died,  some 28 people are unaccounted for, while hundreds more homes have been destroyed and 1000 people are being rescued from Mallacoota in Victoria by a Naval ship.

McKeon and her family were lucky to survive the horror that has besieged this picturesque town of Lake Conjola, such an idylic hideaway for holiday-makers, fishermen and a mecca for water sports enthiusiasts.

But this week has seen that natural beauty turned into a catastrophic fire zone that has sent the small coastal community and a country to its knees.

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The Mckeons (l-r): Ron and offspring Emma and David – Photo Courtesy: Emma McKeon

Ron McKeon sent this message to relieved family and friends late today, saying, “We were evacuated and escorted out at around 9am this morning and arrived (back to Wollongong) six-and-a-half hours later….all safe!”

And his daughter Emma gives her first hand account of what unfolded and her appeal for all Australians far and wide to dig deep to help those thanks to the selfless volunteers.

Australia’s most successful Olympic swimmer in Rio with four medals, including gold in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, took to Instagram to tell of the horrific week she and her family have witnessed and to appeal to all Australians to dig deep.

“It is so hard to truly understand the level of devastation and suffering happening right now across the country from these fires,”wrote McKeon, who with brother David, was also in Lake Conjola, are about to start her 2020 Olympic campaign on the Gold Coast.

“Sadly our home town in Lake Conjola was hit very badly, and we were extremely lucky to be safe where we were. But our heart goes to the victims who lost so much, and to the place many call home.

“I am so grateful to the relentless work and sacrifice from the firies (sic) most of whom are volunteers, saving thousands of people’s homes and lives, and still continuing.

“From being down at Lake Conjola over the last week, you can feel the way the community has come together to support each other.

“Everyone across Australia can come together as a country and support from afar as well by donating to those who have sadly lost their homes and everything in them, and to the fire fighters and volunteers who are risking their lives daily.

“We can often feel helpless from far away but we can do the best we can by donating to those who have lost so much.

“Those still in the areas, please be safe, we are thinking of you, and to those fighting these devastating fires, THANK YOU, SO SO MUCH!”




Lake Conjola on an idylic day for water skiing. Photo Courtesy: David McKeon Instagram

Lake Conjola is a small town situated on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia. It is located in the region of Ulladulla, in the City of Shoalhaven. At the 2016 census, Lake Conjola had a population of 437. Lake Conjola is a popular tourist destination for boaters and fisherman.


  1. avatar
    Alison Lesslie

    My little swim school at Bawley Pt nearly burnt down on the 5th December. My friend in Sydney who is an Swim instructor and aqua instructor is organising an aquathon. It would be awesome if the aquatic community would get behind this and live stream. We are trying to organise this with Hornsby and Shoalhaven city council leisure centres. I’d love the support of the aquatic community to support my region who have lost homes. We want funds to go directly to Conjola residents and our district. Can you help us please. We are aiming for the Australia Day weekend. Contact Sharon Galloway in Sydney

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Hi Alison, so sad to hear your news. Can you send a contact email to Hanso and the team here: . Stay safe.