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Strathewen: oral history after Black Saturday
thesisposted on 22.02.2017, 01:18 by Fraser, Margaret Eleanor
The Victorian bushfires of February 2009 were the most fatal in Australia’s history. This thesis examines oral histories from bushfire survivors from Strathewen, a small settlement northeast of Melbourne in which more than 10% of the population was killed and 80% of homes were destroyed on Black Saturday. The interviews, collected between 2010 and 2013, contained a number of themes that showed how survivors remembered the fires and used those memories to come to terms with the bushfire and its aftermath: the process of memorialisation; hierarchies of loss; cultural representations; gender relations; sense of place and belonging. These helped to shape not only how survivors made sense of the past but also the decisions they made for the future. The complex inter-relationship between personal experience and public expectations, both those in their own community and in the larger public of Victorian society, also affected how survivors understood and communicated their stories. The oral histories of bushfire survivors demonstrate the many ways in which Australian culture both shapes and is shaped by bushfire, and suggest that the process of coming to terms with bushfire, especially in light of a changing climate, is both a national and a personal enterprise.