By Casey Neill
Hundreds of people gathered in Yarra Glen’s McKenzie Reserve to mark 10 years since Black Saturday struck the town and so many others.
Yarra Ranges Council hosted the commemorative service for its residents on Thursday 7 February.
The threat of lightning and rain forced the crowd inside the Yarra Glen Memorial Hall.
Mayor Tony Stevenson apologised for the cramped conditions, but said the strong turnout was indicative of the community’s strength.
He acknowledged the emergency services to enthusiastic applause, as well as the people who lost their lives in the fires and those who chose not to attend.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge those not in the room,” he said.
Dixon’s Creek Primary School students spoke about their award-winning Firestick project.
They worked with Wurundjeri elders to understand the role of fire in the Australian environment.
“We’ve learnt that not all fires are bad, which was quite a relief to some of us after Black Saturday,” one student said.
They also spoke at the state service for Black Saturday held on Monday 4 February.
Councillor Len Cox was mayor in February 2009.
“It doesn’t seem like 10 years to me,” he said.
He said it made him proud to see the community come together in the aftermath.
“That’s what needs to be remembered,” he said.
“They reckon disaster brings out the best in people and in many ways it does, you know.”
Cr Fiona McAllister said the community remembered “with love, joy and deep sadness those who are no longer with us”.
She said many people affected by the Black Saturday fires still spoke about their lives in terms of before and after the event.
“For them, a line was drawn,” she said.
“I think it’s about healing and finding a new rhythm of healing.
“You’ve found a new normal.”
Cr McAllister also acknowledged the SES and CFA.
“I give huge thanks not only for what they did on that day, but what they continue to do and what they’re haunted by,” she said.
The Badger Creek Women’s Choir performed.