This New Year’s Eve I strolled down my inner Melbourne suburban main street for a casual dinner with friends. And I was grateful I could. I’m grateful for my year, for my Christmas, my home and my family. I’m holding onto that gratitude with both hands knowing that others are fighting for those very things, with no other option but to.
‘With half the nation burning it doesn’t feel very festive’, my friend rightly observed of New Years.
It didn’t. It doesn’t. I’ve been glued to social media for the past week/s reading as many updates as I can about what our communities are facing, not just about Victoria but New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. For me, their losses are triggering. For them, it’s devastating over and over.
To think that despite systems and information, despite plans and resources, often it comes down to human nature and Mother Nature. There’s only so much you can control in the moment, only so much you can do in the moment.
Voraciously reading stories of terror and of bravery, of loss and of hope, of continuing flames and exhaustion, of togetherness and blame, this is an Australia we’ve seen glimpses of before, peeking out from previous fire seasons and summers across the state, the nation and the world.
But not like this. The anger in the fires, in those hungry flames seems beyond anything that should be endured with no real end in sight. It feels dramatic. It is dramatic. These moments are very real. No matter how we got here, it should be a rallying time with little thought to politics and pettiness. It should be about people, of doing everything possible now in this moment to help them help themselves.
The media are telling their story; community members are also telling their own. It’s hard to brush aside the hate and the opportunists in social media to get to the heart of what the community and the emergency management personnel are going through. There’s enough time for more blame. We’ve seen it before and it will come again, rightly or wrongly. It’s right to ask questions about how we get out of this. It’s right to ask how we mitigate the chance of being here again.
There are people with answers – that’s not me. Like many, I just have opinions.
But it’s not right to accept that this is the new normal. Based on that, it’s not right to change nothing and to wait for it to happen again. It’s not right to admit defeat. Our communities – those who have lost and those who may still lose – deserve better than that. This New Year must bring something better for them. And for us.