Wonboyn bushfire survivors invited to share stories

WRITING OUR STORIES: Wonboyn Lake author Susie Sarah is calling for residents to participate in the documentation of the recent bushfire events.
WRITING OUR STORIES: Wonboyn Lake author Susie Sarah is calling for residents to participate in the documentation of the recent bushfire events.

Wonboyn Lake author Susie Sarah is currently documenting the experiences of residents who were impacted by the Border Fire, as it moved up the coast from Victoria towards the isolated community of Wonboyn Village late last year and is calling for more locals to share their stories.

According to Ms Sarah, approximately 150 residents and almost triple that number of holiday makers were evacuated from the area on December 31, after Mallacoota had been heavily impacted by fire.

Only 13 residents and eight members of Wonboyn Rural Fire Service remained, prepared to defend the caravan park and residential properties from ember attacks as best they could.

At one stage, firefighters drenched the fire shed and two trucks with water, taking refuge inside the shed. Eventually on January 6 the fire ringed the village and it was no longer safe to stay and defend.

"They realised there was nothing they could do to stop it. The fire took on a life of it's own. It generated it's own weather patterns. It formed a fireball and came over the treetops, terrifying stuff. You can understand how traumatised people are," Ms Sarah said.


The fire approached over the top of Baycliff, through Nadgee Nature Reserve, destroying four houses and a number of cabins and outbuildings.

Although the motorhome they reside in was spared, there was significant damage and surrounding neighbours were not as fortunate.

More than five weeks on, Ms Sarah and her husband Brian Gavin, who live at the caravan park, are still without living with basic facilities at their site, after their generator and solar panels were destroyed.

"As many others do, I feel guilt each morning when I step outside and see the devastation around me," Ms Sarah said.

Recognising the importance of recording the stories of her community, Ms Sarah has put aside her current literary projects to interview residents who wish to participate, the audio recordings of which will be held at the State Library.


Cath McLean from Eden Library has been providing support in conducting interviews.

Ms Sarah will also fund and publish a book, Smoke on the Water, detailing events and personal stories of residents, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Wonboyn Rural Fire Service to purchase necessary equipment for the fire shed.

"The main motivation of this project is to raise funds for Wonboyn RFS and it is also cathartic for residents to share their stories after such traumatic events," Ms Sarah said.

Susie Sarah can be contacted via email by residents wishing to participate in the documentation of recent bushfire events at susiesarah@hotmail.com.au.

This story Wonboyn fire survivors invited to share stories first appeared on Magnet.