• Tony Bosworth

Art of Recovery Roadshow seeks to bring together locals’ experiences of the Black Summer Bushfires

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

When you recall the Black Summer Bushfires that swept though our region, do you have a story, image or video of your experience?

If you do, then to mark the second year anniversary of those devastating fires, the Art of Recovery Roadshow (AORR) wants to hear from you to collect your memories of the experience for an exhibition which will travel the Hawkesbury.

We are fast approaching two years since the Black Summer bushfires and many locals are only just coming to accept the passing of the emergency.

Two years is a commonly accepted period of grieving for disastrous life events.

All the villages and residents along the transport corridor of Chifley and Bells Line of Road survived being burnt out without warning in December 2019 after Hawkesbury Fire Control modelling anticipated 20 to 40 deaths as the incident unfolded. Thankfully that loss of life didn’t happen, but the scars remain.

Hawkesbury local artists Dr Billy Gruner and Regina Walter are the co-curators of the AORR, and they’re collecting anything in relation to the experience – images, short videos, objects, stories, artwork, examples of fire fashion, diary entries, text messages you name it, they’re interested.

"I'm very interested in how we will uncover stories that illustrate community vibrancy, how people have come forward from the lessons learned,” said Dr Gruner.

“Resilience is the key word and very inspiring knowing how much people suffered from loss. We’re hoping the images - stories of recovery - and poignant objects people have collected can be transformed into a great exhibition.”

From top left - Billy Gruner on his fire-ravaged property at Mt Tomah; RFS team briefing at Bilpin Hall, December 21, 2019; two contrasting photos Regina took as the fire approached her property in Bilpin on December 21 2019, at 6.37pm and then 6.41pm; a sign at Mt Lagoon Rd during the emergency

As part of the roadshow, the curators will host cultural day events which will also feature key speakers and musicians and performances along areas on Bells Line of Road.

“COVID is now a problem,” said Dr Gruner, “but we will proceed carefully when safe for all to do so.”

“The experience of the Black Summer Bushfires should not be remembered entirely by harrowing media footage’ says Regina Walter.

“The personal stories such as diary entries, artworks, and things like videos and images from smart phones are the true representations and depictions of what happened and what it really means to the people involved.

We want the random stories and key memories that will help us decipher the experience and create a collective record of the event.’

Mountain Lagoon local and community worker, Kooryn Sheaves, is also involved in the project along with the two curators.

“If stay at home health orders have a silver lining it is that we have time to continue the clean up from the Black Summer fires,” she said.

“Most of us just did what was immediately needed for safety and then went back to work to get money in after spending months preparing for and fighting fires. Then the first wave of COVID stay-at-home orders gave us time to clean up around our houses and paddocks, and this time we have space to reflect on how much we have achieved in surviving and recovering from that natural disaster,” said Ms Sheaves.

If you’d like to share photos, short videos, writing, stories, objects, indeed anything relevant to your story, simply submit by uploading to the Art of Recovery Facebook page.

Contributions will become a record of the event, culminating with a travelling exhibition late this year to showcase the collection. See the Facebook page for some examples.


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