OPINION

Our Future || Bushfire survivors stand in solidarity

I lost my home, and 73 years' worth of precious photos, love letters and mementos when mid-winter fires raced towards my home in Numbugga, NSW, last August.

Today, as I watch the unprecedented fires tearing across NSW and Queensland, my heart goes out to people suffering similar losses. As someone who was in the same position, I want bushfire survivors to know: You will be alright.

I spent time grieving, but one of the first things I did - after contacting my insurer - was to buy vitamins and good food to keep my body nourished. Shock and stress weaken us so we must take care of ourselves.

I didn't have government agencies to help, but the Salvation Army gave me furniture and household essentials and a lady from the post office gave me a lovely tea pot. Friends showed up to cart away rubbish. Such acts of care will heal you.

When you are housed again, tend to administrative matters. This is a complex and time-consuming process, so if you are not in the frame of mind to deal with this, ask for help.

I know it doesn't feel like it now, but things will get better. The phantom burning sensation I felt on the back of my hands after the fires has disappeared, and I can finally think about all I lost without feeling utterly devastated.

But as I progress with recovery, I'm also keenly aware that our bushfire seasons are growing longer, and fires are becoming more dangerous and difficult to control due to climate change.

This climate reality makes me afraid that a fire could affect me again - in fact, the Illawarra region where I live had its first catastrophic fire danger warning last week.

I wouldn't wish the terror of a bushfire escape on my worst enemy. That's why I've joined others to form the Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, calling on the Federal Government to deal with the major driver of increasing bushfire danger.

We want the government to listen to scientists and emergency leaders on how to keep our communities and our climate safe. We must keep fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas in the ground and we need better resourcing for our brave and tireless firefighters.

As the fires burn, members of our group stand in solidarity with the people affected. We don't want anybody to join our ranks because of the loss and trauma it entails. But if you're already here, you are already angry, and you want to get involved: Welcome. https://bushfiresurvivors.org/

Janet Reynolds is a Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action member from the Bega Valley, NSW