More than three years on from Black Saturday, the effects of the bushfires are still felt in Eaglehawk.
Yesterday, at third birthday celebrations for Our Place – a community group that grew out of the ashes of the fires – Eaglehawk residents sipped cups of tea and reflected on how the fires changed their lives.
“I still run out the front when I hear a fire truck,” one local said.
“When I smell smoke I get worried.”
Anna Macgowan nodded in agreement.
A victim of the fires, she testified at the royal commission.
“I always keep ABC Radio on, because it was Jonathan Ridnell’s voice that saved me,” she said.
But in some ways, Ms Macgowan said the bushfires could be “the best thing that happened to Eaglehawk”.
For her it gave the community something to unite behind, something that brought them together.
Roger Prince is, by his own admission, from ‘‘the school of hard knocks”.
A cancer survivor and true Aussie battler, Mr Prince said he loved the sense
of fellowship at Our Place.
“You meet so many different people and you get looked after wonderfully – if you’re down on your luck they really leave no stone unturned,” he said.
“There needs to be more places like this.”
After three years, Our Place is expanding with a move along the street to St Peter’s Church Hall.
Ms Macgowan said the move was another step in the healing process.
“It’s part of us moving forward,” she said.
“Moving the venue means it can move from a bushfire focus to a community focus.
“And we need that, otherwise you can just stay in the past.
“As much as it will be in our minds, it will be a move on from that.”