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Australia remembers Black Saturday on the 10th anniversary of catastrophic bushfires

Black Saturday - The lie of the land

The lie of the land April 8, 2009 – courtesy Elizabeth Donoghue Flickr account
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Ten years ago, on Saturday 7 February 2009, Victoria experienced catastrophic bushfires which killed 173 people, injuring more than four hundred and destroying over two thousand homes. Seven people died later as the result of their injuries.

During the week of the 2019 anniversary, Victorians have remembered Black Saturday, with mainstream media presenting many personal stories of the fires. ABC Melbourne, the local arm of the national broadcaster, commemorated the victims by sharing stories from survivors.

Others have shared their memories online. On her blog, The small Adventurer, Indya recounts losing her home and shares the impact of the fires on her life since that day:

Ten entire years, and I still don’t think one single day has passed without me mentioning – or at least thinking about – the fires.

[…] I am also still really, really nervous around things like ovens, stoves, heaters, and even lighters. As a baker, you can imagine how difficult having those fears is when I’m going to take something out of the oven, and suddenly something doesn’t move the way I expect it to or something like that, and I instantly freeze up and freak out.

[…] Tomorrow I will be thinking of all those who had it much worse than me, and hoping that the people who are still alive and lost so much more are doing okay. But, I will also be thinking about myself, and allowing myself to feel whatever I happen to feel, because my feelings are valid too. My fear and sadness is valid too, and always have been, it just took me a while to realise it.

Dianne McNamara posted only the second tweet on this account:

Melbourne lawyer Georgia was fifteen at the time. She summed up the feelings of many:

Robin Steenberg shared a devastating memory:

Many people are connecting the Black Saturday tragedy to current extreme weather conditions that are wreaking havoc in other parts of the country. Another natural disaster with extraordinary flooding has hit Northern Queensland following record rainfall. Blair Drysdale gave some sense of the impact in inland areas:

The situation in the coastal city of Townsville was also extreme. Video news agency Ruptly documented the torrents:

Melburnian Ann Moorfield made the connection:

Elizabeth Donoghue took the photo at the top of this story “from a road that many people describe as a death trap, a road that I have always avoided till now. But it was worth a hairy drive!” She posted it two months after the fires on Flickr:

Now that everyone knows that this beautiful country that was so burnt in February is not really destroyed, but is just doing what nature intended, and is regenerating, as nature intended, let me show you this amazing landscape. It gives some idea of the scale of the fires; and it also shows, for me, the folds and rhythms of the land beneath the vegetation. i took this from a road that many people describe as a death trap, a road that I have always avoided till now. But it was worth a hairy drive!

Finally, Adrian Cutts reflected on the growth of social media since Black Saturday:

2 comments

  • Rocky Mountain

    I am completely aware that stringing together a list of Tweets and inserting them into an article has now become very common if not obligatory. However, this is a practice that is lazy and completely diminishes my interest in the article. Please give it some thought and maybe try to compose the article yourself.

    • Hi,

      One of Global Voices’ aims is to report on people whose voices and experiences are rarely seen in mainstream media. In the early days most of these were in blogs as evidenced by my 2009 stories about Black Saturday. Most of those voices are now found on social media and it is certainly true that mainstream media have copied our approach in their online stories.

      It can take considerable time to find unique voices such as the baker’s blog at the start of this piece or the craft blog in ’09. It is not just a summary nor could it be written in isolation. I know that many bloggers and tweeps appreciate being included. Hopefully there is more to the post that just an extended Twitter Moments.

      Our writers are volunteers and do not always have the time to track down people for interviews, though this does happen, especially on The Bridge section of GV.

      It can take several hours to find what people are saying online and several more to research the background, compose the story and go through a rigorous editing process.

      We are very proud of what we do. Please stay with us to explore the diverse contributions of our community.

      Cheers, Kevin.

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