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gippsland-remembers
Photo: Keith Packenham

Gippsland remembers

Gippsland remembers

Photo: Keith Packenham

Ten years after Black Saturday

7 February 2009 - Black Saturday

Ferocious fires on a hot windy day resulted in the loss of life and the destruction of property in Central Gippsland, West Gippsland and other parts of the state.

Ten years on, a reflection service marking the anniversary of the Black Saturday and Delburn bushfires will be held in Churchill tonight.

Led by Churchill CFA captain, Steven Barling, the event will be at the Federation University campus.

An audio-visual reflection will be presented by CFA Assistant Chief Officer south-east, Trevor Owen.

"We've learnt a lot as a community, we've learnt a lot as fire and emergency services, but it's a time to really think about what occured ten years ago and keep that front of mind," Mr Owen said.

"Everybody will reflect in a different way, in their own quiet way.

"Tonight is a way of us coming together as a community and as emergency services to simply just reflect on the events of Black Saturday."

The impacts of the bushfires will also be remembered at commemorations in Traralgon South tonight and at Jeeralang North on Saturday afternoon.

Another event at Boolarra on Saturday will also reflect on the Delburn fire, which occurred just before Black Saturday.

Ange Gordon, who led community recovery efforts in the Traralgon South district, said tonight's event will be at the Phoenix Rising statue at 6pm followed by a private dinner at Callignee.

"It is a very raw experience, even ten years to the day. It's still very fresh in everyone's memory," Ms Gordon said.

"We are recognising the bereaved and those families tonight.

"We're releasing some butterflies, providing some nice yellow rose plants to the families and unveiling a plaque in memory of those lost in the fires."

Lifeline Gippsland is urging people who are struggling with mental scars of the Black Saturday event to reach out to someone and not bear it alone.

CEO Michelle Possingham said that commemorating events, and sharing memories and feelings with friends and family, can do a lot to decrease the distress.

"Certainly we encourge people to engage in activities that pay tribute to the event and to avoid isolating yourself," Ms Possingham said.

"Sometimes it feels easier, when you are doing it tough, to shut the doors and stay there and do things on your own.

"But we encourage people to reach out to their social networks... if they don't feel they can, there are services such as Lifeline Gippsland, which is 13 11 14."

Article continues below

Member for Morwell Russell Northe yesterday paid tribute in the Parliament of Victoria, to the Gippslanders impacted by the fires of the summer of 2009 - including Black Saturday.

Black Saturday is a rare day in our history where most Victorian’s can tell you where they were, who they were with, and what they were doing, when they first became aware of the emergency as it unfolded.

Today we remember the pure devastation of the Black Saturday Bushfires and the lasting effects it has had on the so many within the Morwell electorate. Communities including Callignee, Jeeralang, Traralgon South, Koornalla, Hazelwood North & Hazelwood South were impacted heavily.

For not only the Electorate of Morwell but for the State of Victoria, and indeed our nation – this was the worst fire event in history.

The sheer magnitude of the experience is etched into the memory of survivors, helpers and witnesses many of them still recovering from the trail of loss, devastation and despair left in its wake.

Local CFA brigades and their personnel were truly miraculous, incredible - their courage astounding. Words cannot say how indebted we are to their work and as we commemorate and acknowledge the ten-year anniversary of their actions, it is not lost on me that they are out there right now currently fighting fires and protecting their local communities.

I also think it’s important to acknowledge the activities of many of the workers and volunteers that supported our community during this time. The men and women of the SES, Victorian Police, DSE, Paramedics, HVP fire crews, our Hospitals, the AFP, Latrobe City Council, St John Ambulance, Lifeline Gippsland, Government Agencies, Community Groups, Service Clubs, Charities, Businesses and Residents, and many more whose contributions were enormous in addressing the immediate, and long term safety and recovery needs of Gippslanders.

In addition, the leaders within our smaller communities impacted by the fires such as Hazelwood, Jeeralang, Traralgon South, Callignee, Boolarra and Yinnar, have been nothing short of inspirational and exceptional. Ten years after this terrible event, many of these same leaders remain steadfast in support of their people and their community.

We are all in their debt for their dedication, particularly during those tragic weeks ten years ago – thank you, just does not seem anywhere near enough.

It took a disaster for a lot of us to experience total generosity, selflessness, comradery, resilience, determination and community spirit like we’d never seen before. I’ve always been so proud of the people of my electorate for that. In the face of complete devastation, we bound together. Perhaps that is the take home message, ten years on – that no matter what the elements throw at us, the people of Morwell, the people of Victoria will always rise above the challenge.

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Statement from Darren Chester, Federal Member for Gippsland

Ten years ago I stood in the Federal Parliament and spoke about the loss of life and devastation caused by the Black Saturday bushfires.

It was the hardest speech I’ve had to make in my life.

Days of listening to tearful Gippsland bushfire survivors as they spoke about their narrow escapes, and learning more about those who had tragically perished, had an impact on me that I wasn’t aware of until it became time to tell the rest of Australia.

I was relatively new to the Parliament. I was emotional, and at times, I barely got the words out. But my speech in Federal Parliament was never meant to be about me.

It was about the everyday heroes of Gippsland who had fought the Black Saturday bushfires and how our community had rallied together in a time of crisis.

It was about the firefighters, the community volunteers, the emergency services workers, the contractors and the neighbours who had placed themselves in harm’s way to help their mates in a time of great need.

In part, I told a respectfully silent Parliament:

Saturday, 7 February 2009 will always be remembered as the day that hell came to the paradise of the foothills of Gippsland. While the history books will record the bare facts, like the death toll, the homes lost, the extreme temperature and the hectares of forest burnt, they will struggle to tell the stories of so many heroes of Gippsland, and so many have emerged from this tragedy already

We must stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Australians at this time as we all come to terms with the grief, the absolute anger and the disbelief that many of us are feeling at the moment. For those of us who are not directly impacted by this firestorm, we must be there to help pick them up and assist them in the hard times which will undoubtedly lie ahead for them all.

As we gather this week on the 10th anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires, with the smell of smoke in the air, we remember those who died, those whose lives changed forever, and those who continue to serve our community to keep us safe.

And we pause to give thanks to our resilient and resourceful people who had the strength to rebuild and recover from the disaster.

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