I will never forget the catastrophic bushfires of February 2009 – especially that dreadful first day. The oppressive heat, the blood red sun, the sky a darkened orange and the roar of wind.
It quickly became clear that the fires were one of the most devastating in Australia’s history. Hundreds of lives were lost and thousands changed forever.
A decade on, Australians are paying respect to those who lost their lives, and those who survived and have rebuilt their homes and communities. We also acknowledge and pay respect to those who helped in the days, weeks, months and years that followed.
Back in 2009, the nation faced the enormity of the disaster on people’s lives and livelihoods. In the months and years that followed what’s clear is the ways in which the challenge was met through the community bonds of generosity, unity, local leadership and initiative.
People donated $380 million in support of those affected. Red Cross and the Victorian Government established the independent Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund Panel to distribute funds. Every single cent and accrued interest went to helping affected individuals and families, whether it was support for orphaned children, helping rebuild homes, or community determined recovery initiatives.
Children donated treasured toys and pocket money alongside corporate Australia who provided generous financial donations and expertise. The community spirit was extraordinary, from the emergency service teams tackling the fires, to the individuals and organisations supporting people at evacuation and relief centres, through to the long-term recovery effort.
Governments and politicians unified in support of affected communities, working together to ensure the best outcomes for those impacted. The resilience of those who had to endure the long-term impact of Black Saturday was humbling.