Jocelyn Carlin travelled to the area around King Lake, Victoria, in March 2009, a month after the fires of Black Saturday. She documented the destruction she found, and investigated the wider context of the fires, including the growing impact of climate change on this area.
Throughout her journey she was aided by her long lost cousin Harry Carlin, a volunteer for the County Fire Authority with whom she was reunited for the trip. Harry’s narration and Jocelyn’s personal story form a powerful narrative to the piece.
"...thought I'd let you know we made it to Melbourne last night. The fires
are still close, although I believe they'll not reach the house...
...There are so many very sad stories. Heaps of homes lost, livestock burnt
and at the moment 14 people dead and 25 missing. The rain has started here
so I am hoping it's getting to the Yarra Valley..."
This was the email I'd received from my sister Linda on the morning of
Sunday the 8th of February 2009. In the end 173 people died, and the day of
the fires was to become known as Black Saturday.
I stepped onto a train heading out of Melbourne to the Eucalypt gum forests and
dryland farming country, and into Harry's Land Rover, we drove where
possible for three days. Kinglake, a small forest town that would have been
bustling with life a few weeks before, was closed.
I absorbed old Victorian stories, and Harry told me how the Aborigine had
managed this land of fire and smoke as firestick farmers, burning the bush
regularly. "The white man stopped doing that" Harry said, "one, because he's
too lazy, two, because he's too bloody stupid and because he's too bloody
proud to learn from the original inhabitants."
Facing the devastation, I began to understand this latest sad tale of a 200
year struggle between settlers and land.
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