It was a pivotal moment in Australia’s history. The Black Summer bushfires which burned through some 13 million hectares of NSW and the ACT, destroying lives and homes in their wake. And while the fires are out, the invisible fires still burn.
The human impact of this catastrophic natural disaster is still being felt by many communities one year on.
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The Lifeline Australia Dedicated Bushfire Recovery Helpline still receives over 400 calls per day, illustrating the ongoing mental health battle many Aussies are facing to curb the invisible fires that still rage inside them.
This continued need for support has led NRMA Insurance to partner with Lifeline Australia and Australian musical royalty Julia Stone, to try and put into words the lasting consequences of Black Summer.
Stone's bush poem, ‘Next To Me’ sheds light on the ongoing mental health trauma experienced by people impacted by the Black Summer bushfires and aims to reassure those who are struggling that help is still available. The poem is personal for Stone, who volunteers as a trained mental health counsellor.
To illustrate this evocative poem, NRMA Insurance collaborated with Julia Stone to develop a mesmerising video titled 'Invisible Fires'. Beginning as an MRI scan, the brain dynamically morphs in response to Julia’s words, to metaphorically highlight the overwhelming negative mental impact this catastrophic natural disaster has had on so many Australians.
Award-winning Australian folk singer-songwriter and poet, Julia Stone, said: “As I wrote in my poem, ‘You all saw it on the TV, but it was burning right next to me’. I want to highlight that it’s important we don’t forget about those who have been physically and mentally affected by the Black Summer bushfires, even though the world has moved on as we grapple with the effects of a global pandemic.”
“We all saw it on the TV, but it was burning right next to me.”
Living in a coastal town surrounded by fires burning, but thankfully removed from direct threats, I remember spending my days with one eye on the ‘Fires Near Me’ app, and refreshing the notice board used by my kid's primary school to convey important messages to parents.
The threat hadn’t been allowed through the door but it lingered on the doorstep, and we felt the strings of anxiety pulling at us.
We formulated evacuation plans and attended town meetings for "just in case" scenarios. And we were the lucky ones. For those in bushfire-impacted areas or areas at heightened risk, the fire threat quickly became reality.