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Author: Public Record Office Victoria

February 2019 marks the 10 year anniversary of the 2009 Victorian bushfires and heatwave, one of the most significant natural disasters Victoria has experienced. 

The bushfires devastated the State, and memories of the event still impact communities to this day. There were 173 people who died in the tragedy, and many more were injured or had their homes destroyed. 

 

map of victoria with red sections showing where the bushfires were
Diagram of the Jan to Feb 2009 bushfires as shown in the summary Royal Commission Report, vprs16295 p3 item3


 

It was a time that shook Victoria, and one none of us will ever forget.

“We need to learn from the experiences of Black Saturday and improve the way we prepare for and respond to bushfires,” the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commissioners.


Royal Commission

The Royal Commission held after the fires revealed significant learnings and recommendations on how to prevent a disaster like 2009 from ever happening again. 

We hold the Royal Commission report in our collection. The report is in digital format and can be downloaded. Simply type ‘2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission Final Report’ into our collection search. The interim reports are also available under series VPRS 16295, as are exhibits such as witness statements, media articles and other documentation which you can find within series VPRS 16497. 

“This report is an important part of securing the memory of the fires,” the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commissioners.

front page of the summary document
Front page of the summary Royal Commission Report, vprs16295 p3 item3


 

Recommendations

There were 67 recommendations spanning Victoria’s bushfire safety policy, emergency management, electricity-caused fires, arson, planning and building, and land management, to name a few.

The first recommendation was around revising the State's bushfire policy including strengthening the range of options available in the face of fire, such as community refuges, shelters and evacuation, while recommendation 4 was for the State to introduce a comprehensive approach to shelters, and recommendation 5, a comprehensive approach to evacuation including encouraging people to evacuate early. While Recommendation 7 called for a national bushfire awareness campaign. 

Further along, Recommendation 35, “Victoria Police continue to pursue a coordinated statewide approach to arson prevention and regularly review its approach.” And Recommendation 37 called for bushfire risk mapping.
 

Recovery

In response to the 2009 bushfires, communities have shown remarkable resilience to rally together, recover and rebuild. The environment, too, has regenerated.   

Within our collection there is a series entitled ‘2009 Victorian Bushfires Fire Recovery Photo Point Library’ from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (the responsible agency at the time). The photographs in this series were created to document the recovery of fire-affected threatened species and ecosystems following the bushfires. They are from the Kilmore-Murrindindi area. They feature the stark contrast of the burned environment slowly giving way to new vegetation, new life.
 

photo of charred trees and burned ground with some green peeking through
Point 1 Echo Flat, Lake Mountain West 1.5m, April 2009, vprs16681 p1.

 

green leaves and you can see some of the burned leaves underneath being out grown
Point 12 Taggerty River, East of Marysville North 45 Degrees, March 2011, vprs16681 p1.


The photographs are in digital format. Type ‘2009 Victorian Bushfires Fire Recovery Photo Point Library’ into our collection search. 
 

Commemorations and support

This Victorian Government website here contains information on programs to support Victorians to remember and recover, details of State commemoration and access to mental health support services. 

If you know someone who was affected by the 2009 bushfires, it's a good idea to check in on them and see that they are ok. If you or a loved one need extra support during this time, don't be afraid to speak up and reach out. There are many places you can go for help, including your local doctor, a mental health professional, or Lifeline on 13 11 14. 


Further reading 
•    1939 Black Friday
•    1983 Ash Wednesday, school pupils experiences 

10 year anniversary ribbon

 

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Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples.