The song made famous by Midnight Oil, Beds Are Burning has been on and in my mind over the past weeks whilst horrific fires burn all over Australia.
It was a song with political links written in the 80’s, about reconciliation, and then in 2009 about climate change. Nothing directly to do with fire.
But in recent times, the apocalyptic fires have brought it to mind. How can we breath, let alone dance, when our beds are literally burning?
Christmas, New Year and the entire month of December and part of November saw Sydney shrouded in smoke, the Adelaide foot hills on fire, Kangaroo Island has been decimated, Victoria is still burning and the fires are still burning here in NSW.
New Years Eve marked the end of the hottest decade on record for Australia ever. Meanwhile summer is just half way through.
It is unfathomable, even to someone who grew up in South Australia, where as a journalist we were given bushfire training each year in preparation for the fires to come. No-one was trained or prepared for anything on this level, and especially not this early in the season.
But a look back on the worst fires in the country is a sore reminder that in fact this is not new. We live in a dry country where catastrophic fires have occurred from time to time, over millions of years. Back then many were started by lightning, and long before climate change was on the agenda. Fires have historically been painful, large and hugely damaging:
Australia’s Biggest Fires In Brief (Records only start at 1851):
In February 2009, Black Saturday bushfires killed 173 people, destroying over 2000 properties, and almost 80 communities were severely affected. These fires were the subject of a Royal Commission.
In February 1983, Ash Wednesday saw over 100 bushfires burn in NSW and South Australia. 210, hectares lost, 47 people and more than 27,00 live stock. 200 houses went.
In January 1939, Black Friday, fires burned 1.5 to 2 million hectares in Victoria. The fires killed 71 people and destroyed over 650 buildings. A Royal Commission was held into the fires.
In February 1898, Red Tuesday 260,000 hectares in Southern Gippsland burned, 12 lives were lost and more than 2000 buildings destroyed.
In 1851, Black Thursday, fires burned around 5 million hectares in Victoria. 12 lives, a million sheep, and thousands of cattle were lost
Today over half a billion wildlife are gone. Twenty three lives have been lost, and over 13 million acres destroyed so far. Firies are working round-the-clock to save our country,
In the 1980’s, Midnight Oil was a band wearing black t-shirts with sorry on them, begging the politicians to say sorry to indigenous Australians. This time we are all united in sorrow. Sorrow for the lives lost, the animals, the incredible landscape that is Australia, the livelihoods of so many Aussies who make up the amazing country life of our country. Sorrow for it all.
One of the greatest thing about Australians is our resilience and our ability to fight back, and the ray of hope in all of this mayhem has come from an unlikely source – Celeste Barber. An instagrammer, actor, comedian, queen of parody, who posted a photo of her mother-in-law’s living room bathed in the orange hues rom the fire, and asked for international donations.
At the time of writing, she had raised over $25 million in a few days through donations by over 555,000 people. It’s a reminder of the power of one person with the right message. It is still possible – even amongst all of this.
To make a difference, the best way is to donate money through; Celeste Barber’s facebook donation page, Australian Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief, Salvation Army Disaster Appeal, St Vincent De Paul Society Bushfire Appeal.
For the firies; NSW RFS Donations Page, (or look for a brigade in your state and make a donation).
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