THE SCARS from Black Saturday run deep, a chaplain who administered in the Bendigo fire’s wake says.
Bendigo commemorated the event on Saturday, 10 years and two days after the blaze erupted in Bracewell Street, killing resident Mick Kane, destroying 57 homes and damaging more.
Tracey Wolsley was the director of the Our Place Recovery and Assistance Centre in Black Saturday’s aftermath.
“It leaves a scar that never goes away. Black Saturday is embedded in people’s lives and our history. Things have changed because of it,” she said.
Even 10 years on, Reverend Wolsley said summer was still a time when those affected could become anxious.
“Very traumatic memories still flood them, and they can be quite surprised by that,” she said.
“I was speaking to someone today and they told me they went somewhere to have coffee and there were these CFA people there in uniforms.
“The person burst into tears and had to leave. They were really surprised by their reaction.”
Hundreds of people came through the centre, Reverend Wolsley said.
“Everybody was traumatised to some degree. If they didn’t lose lose their home or other property they were under ember attack, they may have seen their neighbours’ homes go up in flames or heard explosions,” she said.
“Their sense of safety was so threatened.”
Despite the pain the Bracewell Street fire triggered, some good things had come out of the event, Reverend Wolsley said.
“It brought the community closer together. After the fires, I remember, people would say ‘I didn’t know my neighbour but because of the fire I got to know them’,” she said.
“So there were some positives in the midst of all the tragedy.”
Below: the commemoration event took place at the Bendigo Bushfire Memorial on Marong Road
Reverend Wolsley encouraged those affected by Black Saturday to keep talking to loved ones about what they felt, especially if the anniversary or media coverage brought up memories.
“There are a lot of good community supports, whether they be professional health services, counsellors, friends, neighbours,” she said.
“Don’t shy away from those supports. Go seek them out and say your struggling. We do it with everything else.
“If our car’s not working right we don’t hesitate to take it to the mechanic. So seek out those supports as a little bit of self-care.”
For help at any time, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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