Some reflections on the bushfire recovery process


June 23rd, 2009

iStock_Bark after fire

It’s nearly five months on from the Victorian bushfires that claimed many lives, homes, livlihoods, habitat, livestock and wildlife. I don’t live in the affected area. I’ve done a few workshops with people who do, and with people who have been affected indirectly.

I’ve seen some of the effects – physical and emotional. I’ve seen the blackened trees, felt the stillness, and the emptiness. Yet have been surprised by the resilience of nature, as the sound of a single bird fills the void and the sight of new, green shoots seems to sprout as I watch. I’ve listened to stories and to accusations, to questions and to answers. I’ve seen multiple emotions cross people’s faces in a moment. And I’ve seen great pain and great joy.

I’ve read reports of the inquiries. I’ve listened to people recount their stories. I’ve heard analysis. I’ve heard blame. And I’ve heard thanks. Directly and mediated.

And most poignant of all, to me, are pleas from people rebuilding their lives for ongoing support. Not for more money, although that helps; not for more visits from the agencies, although it’s good to know they haven’t been forgotten; not from tourists, although it’s good have their money flowing into the affected communities. Sometimes they don’t even have the words. They want their community back. They want the connection. The feeling of belonging.

I can’t give them what they want. Nor can anyone else.  This has to come from within. Community-building is community-centric. The time for facilitators from outside of these communities is passing quickly, although we can still provide valuable support through training, coaching and mentoring. In the end though, it will be up to these reinvented, fledging communities to bring their own groups together to re-build local capacity, and resilience. And a sense of belonging again.

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