The Australian Bushfire Emergency.

How can I help?

I personally was caught in, and deeply affected by, the Dunalley fire of 2013.

Below is an account I wrote at the time, with some pictures.

I am surprised right now that this was seven years ago. My memories and emotions are as fresh as they were then. This for me is an indicator of how others have been affected, how they may be feeling, and how long they may be affected. This is no small or short term thing, of which I’m sure you have awareness. Recovery is now a big job, with no assurance that the situation will not get worse before it gets better. How to deal with something of this scale? Quality information on what those effected actually want/need could be a very good starting point.

What to offer from a therapy business/field in these unprecedented circumstances is something that I have been considering. In Tasmania we copped it last year and this year we have been more remote from the centres of the disaster. This on initial observation appears to mean that there are not many people directly effected seeking therapy solutions here. This of course is very hard to read and could change at any point. There is effect and potential trauma in being connected to those effected, by being a part of the national community, by exposure to media, and having been effected/affected in the past.

I offer myself as a practitioner (part of a nationwide group of such practitioners) who is capable of understanding the scope of the situation, and create safe space to talk about what happened and what is needed.

Some links for assistance:

Australian Government link: www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au

Red Cross link: www.redcross.org.au

This link to ABC RN Life Matters show 29/1/20 is a beauty, relevant to everyone, with a focus on children: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/helping-children-come-to-terms-with-this-season’s-bushfires/11906806

My story from January 2013:

The Inala Road Fire.

There had been a bushfire on the horizon the night before. In the morning there was some smoke in the air, but no fire. We set up the boat, hooked it to our car and headed down to Marion Bay to get some surf. It was a warm morning that was quickly becoming hot. We found a nice half metre wave breaking right and left on the outside sandbar of the Boneyard, the name of the surf break at the Marion Bay Narrows. We surfed for an hour or so then up-anchored and cruised back to Boomer Bay, passing through curious and pleasant walls of increasingly hot air the closer we got to the boat ramp. Not a sign of a bushfire anywhere to be seen. At the ramp we went to our usual routine of securing and tidying the boat for the trip home. When we were almost finished I noticed that the people of the house nearest the ramp car park were scurrying about doing something. Once again, curious, I thought.

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The hill in the background is the hill west of Dunalley, about an hour or so before the fire hit. No sign of a catastrophic fire.

We headed up the road to Dunalley to buy ourselves a pie or four, as some of the crew were very peckish. At the turnoff on to main road there was a policeman and his car. He said there was a bushfire, and the road back to Hobart was closed. We turned left, which was the way we were going anyway, and made for Dunalley to buy our pies. At Dunalley the bakery was closed, curious. We went to the small service station and store at the top of the rise. They have pies. And sure enough, they did. As we stared into the pie warmer the owner of the shop appeared from outback. His demeanour was at fever pitch. “Could we have some pies please?” “Are you crazy, the whole town is being evacuated, I can’t sell you a pie, you need to evacuate immediately like everyone else.” “It would be good if we could buy some pies first?” “No.” Out on the main road we met another friendlier man who asked if we had had a good surf, and said that everyone was evacuating to the hotel car park. We jumped in the car and headed in that direction. At the swing bridge that crosses the canal there was another police car, with a policeman attempting to give directions to an arrogant local ex-politician in a new sports car. We drove up the small rise out of the canal, and as I was about to turn into the hotel car park, which was already more or less full of cars and people, I looked in my rear-vision mirror. I could see the two tall hills that sit to the north of the town. Atop the hills was a plume of smoke as massive as any plume of smoke I had ever seen in pictures of volcanoes erupting. In front of the smoke was a wall of flames at least thirty metres high, and probably more like forty-five. This I had seen before. In nineteen sixty seven, when I was five years old, the very day that I first started school, my home town of Hobart was threatened from all directions by catastrophic wildfires that burnt up to and into the houses surrounding our city. That day I had travelled to town in the back seat of my mother’s car to pick up Dad from his workplace. We were taking him home so that he could join an army of similar fathers. They were to beat at the flames with wet hessian sugar sacks. They saved the town, those fathers with wet sugar sacks. I looked at the flames in my rear-vision mirror, and I thought, how exciting, how incredible, how very, very dangerous. I said to my young crew in the car, “We’re not staying here, I have seen this before, when I was a five year old boy, and it ends badly, we are going.” As we drove off toward the next town, Murdunna, I explained where I had seen this sort of incredible fire. As my family returned across the big high bridge that crosses the Derwent River at Hobart, back in nineteen sixty seven, I, sitting with my brother and some of my sisters in the spacious back seat of Mum’s Austin 1800, I looked around me to the hilltop horizon that adorns the city surrounds of Hobart with just such treed beauty. Atop of every hill, every hill, I could see flames rising, maybe thirty, maybe forty-five metres into the air. We pulled into Murdunna shops, and refuelled the boat and the car. A fully fuelled boat might be becoming useful. We bought ourselves some pies, and sat in the early afternoon heat outside the main store. By this time, back along the road, the fire had burnt through Dunalley township, jumped almost a kilometre across the bay to the south, and ignited the peninsula we were now on with the same ferocity with which it had arrived. Much of that town was now contained in the smoke plume. We could no longer see this smoke, and we did not know of the damage done. Car traffic passing the store began to increase, and one car pulled to the side of the road opposite. “The fire has jumped to this side, and is coming down the road” “Oh, thanks for letting us know.” We climbed back into our car and left. From the waterfront outside Taranna, two townships down, we watched across the bay. We could now see the enormous smoke cloud, which simultaneously, and unanimously filled us with a primal excited joy, and a gut stirring fear. The youngest of us, my sixteen-year-old son, appeared to be unsure of what he was looking at. “That’s Dunalley, the town we just left, that’s it, up in the air.” I explained, and then had to say it again before he realised what I was saying. We did not know that no one had died.

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Our view of the fire from Taranna, as we evacuated to Port Arthur.

Nick Hall, 2013

My short story was included in the ‘pop-up’ Show+Tell January 2013 Bush Fires exhibition at the Forcett Hall (near where the fire started) on 19 and 20th November 2016. It took years for people’s personal stories to come out.

A few more pictures related to the story:

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A picture taken by my wife from our family home in Dodges Ferry. As we evacuated from Dunalley to Port Arthur the rest of my family evacuated from Dodges Ferry to Hobart. We had minimal contact for three days as phone lines, mobile network towers, and power infrastructure were destroyed by the fire.

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A view of the smoke cloud from the beach at Port Arthur. When we arrived we needed to tell people on the beach that a catastrophic fire was on it’s way.

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We self evacuated by boat from Slopen Main Beach on the Tasman Peninsular back to my home in Dodges Ferry three days later. At the family shack at Port Arthur we had had to have hourly rotation of someone awake watching for smoke and fire throughout the nights. In the background is another boat evacuating. There was a large and constant flotilla of such boats over the three days of the fire.

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The smoke cloud above Dunalley from Park Beach.

 

 

Adventure Scrapbook #2

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Alfie the therapy dog looking majestic after a walk and talk at Montrose Bay.

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A pic from a few years ago. We are launching a friends Balinese sailing jukung at Midway Point.

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Our new row and talk wooden boat “BoBi” on her maiden trip (test row) at Blue Lagoon. She is a sailing dinghy also.

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Me meeting a quokka at Rottnest Island, Western Australia. They are quite used to people getting close. Yes, I had my promo tee shirt on for the shot.

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Walking and talking in the tranquil surrounds of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in Hobart. We spent some time checking out the bright coloured flowers in the nurturing space of the Conservatory.

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A little panorama. Walking in Shag Bay at the East Risdon Nature Reserve on a warm day. Lots of Tasmanian birdlife to be encountered. We have seen over thirty species here.

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Late season snow at Carr Villa hut, Ben Lomond National Park, Tasmania.

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We paddled out together to Little Spectacle Island in our own kayaks. This activity builds self reliance in a safe environment. And it’s heaps of fun if you are up for it.

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An adolescent blue tongue lizard looking for food on a hot day beside the track at Geilston Bay. We also see bronze skinks, and mountain dragons!

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We are taking the stand up paddle board out at Tinderbox Beach south of Hobart on the start of the D’entrecasteaux Channel.  I follow in our safety dinghy.

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A summer’s day walk and talk on Park Beach, Dodges Ferry. Calming, reassuring, and mixed with the joy of being here.

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Alfie’s sister Lexi doing her apprenticeship as a therapy dog on the coastal track at Lewisham. She is doing just fine.