By Mayor Tony Stevenson
Thursday 7 February will mark 10 years since the start of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires – the day many of us refer to as Black Saturday.
The fires, of which there were hundreds around the state, had a devastating and unprecedented impact on the Yarra Ranges over about a month.
Whether you were in the Yarra Ranges in February 2009 or came here after, the Black Saturday bushfires had a flow-on effect into so many aspects of people’s lives across our communities.
Sadly, along with the people who tragically lost their lives, there are many people whose lives have been shaped by this event and some who are still feeling the impact today.
The council will be hosting an event to commemorate the anniversary of the 2009 Bushfires on 7 February from 5.30pm at Yarra Glen’s McKenzie Reserve.
We’re inviting residents, emergency services workers, friends and families of those affected by the bushfires to attend for a short program of speeches and performances, including Dixons Creek Primary School and the Badger Creek Women’s Choir.
Refreshments and ice cream will be available, and we’re encouraging visitors to bring a picnic and come together with their community.
The anniversaries of such traumatic events can be difficult, no matter how directly or indirectly you were exposed to it.
I encourage anyone who is having a tough time in the lead-up to this anniversary to speak to friends, co-workers and loved ones, or to contact a mental health professional or support services such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 to ensure they get the support they need.
Be aware that people around you might also be having a tough time and need some extra support during this time.
This period is a time to reflect and remember those who lost their lives in the bushfires, and learn about how the fires changed the lives of many, and how communities have rebuilt.
People should seek professional help from a mental health professional in the lead-up to and during the anniversary period if they:
– are feeling overwhelmed and are unable to handle any intense feelings or physical sensations;
– have physical stress symptoms;
– are re-experiencing vivid flashbacks of the event and are becoming extremely distressed;
– find that relationships with family and friends are suffering;
– are becoming accident-prone and using more alcohol or drugs; or
– are experiencing other significant changes in their behaviour that would not normally occur.
People should also be aware of anyone in their personal or professional lives experiencing the above symptoms during this period.
For more information about the event, visit yrc.vic.gov.au/2009firescommemoration.