I was originally a rural girl from Western Victoria. I am part of a large extended family – many of whom are still on the land. While I now live and work in Canberra, my sense of connection with the land and those families and communities who make their livelihoods living on the land across our country, has not waned.
My interest in community and community recovery began when I was a teenager. I grew up on a farm near Lake Bolac in Victoria. We had our first significant bushfire when I was a teenager. My father fought the fire along side other volunteer community fire fighters. A nearby town was razed and a school friend’s father was killed as he returned to his property to check on his home and family (who unbeknownst to him, were already safe miles away).
This photograph was taken of my father by the photographer from the ‘Stock and Land’ newspaper, as he helped his neighbours feed their sheep (providing his own hay) after a bushfire. I was particularly proud of his response as he declined to give his name – saying that the community were all helping one another and he was no more ‘worthy’ of being photographed or identified than the many others who were supporting one another as they all ‘got back on their feet’.
I experienced the Canberra bushfires of 2003. I ‘stayed’ and protected my home. All the residents in my street were successful in protecting our homes as the fire came down to (and in some cases) destroyed back fences. I have then watched community after community in this country face disaster and demonstrate courage and resilience in response.
I have been managing government funding designed to assist disadvantaged communities, for many years now. After I turned 50 (in 2011) I began to think about how best to add value to how government funds were spent in this process of supporting communities. I began to believe that I could offer more, by changing my role.
I left my government job, and began as a PhD student at the Australian National University in March 2012 – with a deep commitment to finding out from communities what their experiences of natural disaster are, and how the Australian community and governments can best help. With the guidance of my wonderful supervisor, Beverley Raphael, I hope to find some answers that can inform Australia’s evolving response to natural disasters in the future. This website is part of how I hope to contribute to the resilience of Australian communities so that we may better face and respond to, natural disasters in the future.