Community-based bushfire management is about agencies and communities working collaboratively, sharing and valuing knowledge, enabling communities to make informed decisions, and developing local solutions to reduce bushfire risk.
The quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has” [Margaret Mead], sums up Hesket-Kerrie brigade, north of Mount Macedon, perfectly. But, that small group is rapidly becoming a larger group, with the number of brigade support members growing as residents experience the benefits of being involved, both personally and for their community.
This community is one of those across the state where the Safer Together Community Based Bushfire Management approach is being adopted (see www.safertogether.vic.gov.au for more details). Agencies and communities work collaboratively to share and value knowledge to enable communities to make informed decisions and develop local solutions to reduce the bushfire risk.
The community and Hesket Kerrie brigade embraced Safer Together thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of Community Safety Coordinator Jacky Kelly. Brigade members are convinced that events such as this brunch, held last Sunday at the brigade's satellite fire station at Cherokee, are crucial for a safer and more empowered community.
Along with plenty of time to network, the event included short presentations about resilience, Safer Together, brigade priorities and projects, and a discussion about Neighbour Day coming up on Sunday 31 March. There was also time to identify some challenges and opportunities for the picturesque but high fire risk locality.
Neighbour Day is Australia’s annual celebration of community, encouraging people to connect with those who live in their neighbourhood, and this event did just that a week early.
There were informal conversations and people were encouraged to meet their neighbours over a cuppa and a bacon and egg sandwich. One of the most simple but powerful activities involved using an aerial photo. People were asked to place a dot on the photo to identify their properties, and this sparked much interest and discussion with some people commenting that they didn’t realise the amount of vegetation surrounding them until they saw this landscape map.
There was also a reminder about the continuing dry conditions which was demonstrated by the timely event of a turnout. The siren went off while we were packing up, after the brigade had been turned out to a nearby grassfire.
The brigade including the 25 support members are to be congratulated for their dedication, creativity and enthusiasm, which has ensured that every event they host has been a resounding success, and we look forward to seeing what future ideas and successes come from working with Hesket-Kerrie as a Safer Together focused community.