I have a two-year-old daughter and a three-year-old-son and I did not know how to explain to them the tragic images that they saw glimpses of on the TV. As a mum it felt wrong to pretend that there was nothing wrong. Rather than focus on the destruction of the fires, I found it helpful to focus on the good we can see in this moment of everyone pulling together and how we all help each other out when times are tough.
What’s happening in Australia is not something a child can easily understand. I too still struggle to comprehend the scale of this unprecedented disaster: At least 30 people have been killed, more than 1.25 billion animals are estimated dead, some 25 million acres are burned, and the fires are still burning.
My friends, colleagues’ friends and families have lost their homes. Businesses, towns and entire communities have been displaced. Tourist towns have no tourists. People ask me, “Ali, are you OK?” I am OK, but so many are not around our beautiful country.
I grew up in Gippsland, a part of southeast Australia rich with agriculture and wildlife, and an area that has been devastated by these recent bushfires. A country girl, I am used to fires and floods but nothing could prepare me for this bushfire season. I was born in Omeo, a high-country town in the mountain ranges of Gippsland. It’s a tough, close-knit community where no one leaves anyone behind. As I write this, Omeo is being evacuated as fires loom in the high country. Branches are smouldering on our ridges, our wildlife is seeking refuge. We emerge from the flames in the best way we can and help others in every way possible. And it is still only the beginning of the fire season.