Local News

Wonboyn's bushfire horror captured in oral histories

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Above: Librarian, Cat McLean interviewing Wonboyn visitor, Naomi Furrer for the bushfire oral history project.

An oral history project documenting the events of the summer bushfires on the community of Wonboyn is now available on the Bega Valley Shire Library Service website.

The seven accounts of Wonboyn locals and visitors chart the events and aftermath of the out-of-control Border Fire that hit the small coastal village in early January.

Librarian, Cat McLean recorded the accounts soon after the fires, working with Wonboyn author, Susie Sarah who is writing a compilation of bushfire recollections from local residents.

“It’s a project that started while talking with Susie at the Eden library,” Ms McLean said.

“The Wonboyn community faced the full force of the Border Fire and talking with Susie that day, we realised that sharing stories could offer some degree of healing and catharsis to people who have been through so much.

“Recording the accounts was a very humbling experience, and I feel very privileged that people in Wonboyn were willing to share their stories with me.

“Within the seven recordings are people’s reactions to the growing threat of an unstoppable bushfire heading towards their community.

“We hear of evacuating to Eden and remaining a community; and a couple’s account of sheltering in the local fire shed, only to hear the heartbreaking news over RFS radio that their home has been destroyed.

“People talk about the fireballs, tornadoes and fire fronts coming from three directions, and coming to terms with a feeling of displacement after the fire had passed.

“But what I picked up most from listening to these accounts was the feeling of strength and generosity, and the fellowships found in small communities. They are inspiring and brave people.”

Library Coordinator, Megan Jordan-Jones said the recordings provided research for Ms Sarah’s book, Fire Across the Water, which collects the accounts of about 20 Wonboyn residents and visitors.

“The book and these recordings give us an oral history of a community under threat and how they begin a long recovery process.

“They are rich with a sense of belonging, providing an insight into how we act in times of distress. With time, the value and significance of these recorded histories will continue to emerge.”

Visit the Wonboyn Border Fire Oral History project webpage to listen to recordings and download transcripts.