Eden-Monaro bushfire anniversaries offer opportunity to reflect and connect

Eden-Monaro bushfire anniversaries offer opportunity to reflect and connect Main Image

24 December 2020

This house on the hill sits to the south west of Cobargo. The orange skies that surround it are familiar to all in our wider Eden-Monaro community.

The time we shared under these skies between late November 2019 and early February 2020 looms large in the life of our region.

Some people and places have already marked the anniversary of their bushfire experience; I was with the Braidwood-Bombay community a few weeks ago with Anthony Albanese – almost 12 months to the day since fire destroyed local homes, pastures, livestock, bush land and wildlife.

But as we approach New Year’s Eve and the first days of 2021, communities including Cobargo, Quaama, Kiah, Pericoe, Nerrigundah, Tumbarumba, Baltow and surrounds will be reflecting on the day that changed their lives forever.

There is no right or wrong way to mark these anniversaries. These occasions will stir emotions and they will continue to do so with every year that passes. They are an opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved, to support one another, and to share thoughts and feelings.

It is okay not to feel okay around these occasions – and I would encourage anyone struggling through this time to reach out for support.

I hope that what comes from this period is a restored energy to rise to the challenges that remain.

It’s easy to be buried by what has been lost, but what I take from this photo of the house on the hill is how much remains – the house, the proud trees that surround it, and the family who loves it.

This home and photo belong to photographer Ben Marden. Ben’s wife, Amrei lost her yoga business on the main street of Cobargo.

Ben and his family took the Yankee’s Gap Fire of 2018 as a huge wake-up call and steadily prepared their property over the 18 months that followed, prior to the 2019 New Year’s Eve fire. When the flames came, Ben was in a position to stay and defend the historic weatherboard house and eight other old timber buildings.

Looking at this photo with that knowledge, I am reminded of what we can all do to make ourselves safer and more resilient in future.

Those preparations will be different for each person and each family based on their circumstances – but let’s not let the lessons of our experience 12 months ago disappear with time.

For advice, start with the Rural Fire Service and Red Cross websites.

Not every home that was well prepared was spared from the flames but let’s put ourselves in the best position we can moving forward.

However you choose to mark this time, know that you are not alone, every person in this community has their own personal experience; we face the future together.

For mental wellbeing and support talk to Life Line on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or Headspace on 1800 650 890.

Photo: Ben Marden Photography, BenMarden.com.au