Remembering Black Saturday

This Victorian Parliament has paused to remember the 10th anniversary of the 2009 bushfires, which claimed the lives of 173 people.

Member for Eastern Victoria Region, The Nationals Melina Bath has paid tribute to the strength and resilience of Gippsland communities and commended the bravery of those who found themselves facing the worst disaster in the country’s history.

“Black Saturday and the days and weeks around it are firmly imprinted into the minds of those who lived their devastation,” Ms Bath said.

“The response to this year’s anniversary is mixed across Gippsland and the Valley.

“Some want to remember, while others would simply prefer to forget.  But it is important to acknowledge this anniversary is deeply personal for many and will be marked in many different ways.

The Churchill complex fire started only one week after the region was already struggling to combat the destructive Delburn fire.  The new fire threat took hold instantly, moved rapidly and left a trail of devastation in its path.

The ferociousness of the Churchill complex fire was unprecedented, bearing down on Hazelwood South, Jeeralang, and Budgeree East before threatening the communities around Yarram and Woodside.  A sudden wind change then pushed the fire on Callignee, Koornalla, Traralgon South, Gormandale and Willung South.

“So many community members were displaced, forced to flee with only the clothes on their back.  For many others evacuation was not even a choice, they were forced to stay and fight for their lives and defend their homes and properties,” said Ms Bath.

“Sadly our community lost 11 lives, with thousands of others impacted by the cruel trauma of bushfire.

“There were so many firefighters both volunteer and career, SES personnel and community members on the ground that day who fought so hard to slow the force of this fire: whether it was emergency services, a neighbour or a friend; individuals and communities rallied to help each other despite being under the greatest of threats.

“The Gippsland community will forever be grateful to those extraordinary people and for the support too that flowed in from around the state and around the world in the weeks, months and years following.

“In the days and years that have passed we have drawn hope and strength from each other and community supports and symbolic monuments have been constructed across our state.

“At the entrance to Traralgon South you now see a magnificent sculpture of a phoenix rising, erected by the local CFA brigade themselves.

“The Traralgon South phoenix rising symbolises those who perished and those who came to support the community.  It symbolises the rebuild and recovery and shows strength, resilience and a strong sense of community, everything the CFA and Traralgon South and district stand for.

“Personally I am extending condolences, love, admiration and support to those who lost loved ones, to those who lost their homes, livestock and pets and to the individuals who fought so hard to protect us all, I say thank you.”