Celebrating the launch of a Karen fire safety film in Nhill

There wasn't a cloud in the sky in Nhill on Saturday morning for a very special event - the launch of the Karen community fire safety film 'Prevention is better than cure'.   


Filming the project.

It had been in planning for months between the Nhill Learning Centre, CFA and, most importantly, the local Karen community.

The film was developed as part of a CFA Summer Local Initiative funded project between CFA, Nhill Learning Centre and University of Adelaide. Most critically the film was developed using a community-based participatory approach that saw the local migrant Karen community create a film about fire restrictions and Total Fire Bans that is meaningful to them, in their language with local community actors.

As the event drew closer the room started to fill and soon more chairs were dragged out to ensure everyone could sit down. There were close to 100 people in the room, half or more from the local Karen community here in Nhill.

That's the way it's meant to be; this film is theirs.

I soon found out why some of the Karen community members were wearing traditional dress, as they performed a traditional dance to mark the start of the event. Hosted by Annette Creek from the Nhill Learning Centre alongside Thablay Sher, a local Karen community member who provided the critical role of Interpreter for the event as she often does.

CFA’s Karen Enbom, Manager Community Engagement, said the importance of these types of projects is that they put community first and allow the community to decide what is important to them. 

“This approach shows what can be achieved when CFA take off our ‘telling hats’ and putting on our ‘listening hats’ and really listen to what the community want to do. I really want to thank the Nhill Brigade, especially Trevor and Jo and also the local District 17 staff, Jenny McGennisken and Sue Martin for supporting this unique project,” said Karen.

After some very important thankyous from CFA, from the Nhill Learning Centre and from Dr Scott Hanson-Easey (from the University of Adelaide) we got to watch the film on the big screen. 

Traditional Karen music plays in the background as the film takes you to several key parts of town and demonstrates how to abide by the legal fire restrictions over summer. The film really demonstrates what can be achieved when we work together with community and we take their voice seriously. It proves that there are better ways we can communicate with the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities beyond publications. It proves that this approach is worth advocating for, worth pushing, worth the effort to share across CFA.

After the film we had a presentation about the plight of the Karen people, about their history and why they had to flee Myanmar (formerly Burma) as well as their experience as refugees. It was very touching and a good history lesson and a reason not to complain about the small things, like cold coffee or petrol prices. It really demonstrated how lucky we are to be in Australia.

The event did not end there, we were then treated to a sit down lunch of authentic Karen cuisine. I still remember the taste of the sweet little coconut tapioca slice we were given at the end of main meal.  I really should have asked for the recipe. This event has made me realise how lucky we are in Victoria to have such a multicultural and diverse community.

I am now looking forward to supporting this approach more broadly across CFA. A case study will be developed to assist CFA Districts and Brigades keen to engage with their multicultural communities.

This story was covered by SBS. They came up to Nhill on the Friday before the event and have put together a great article and news clip that can be viewed here https://www.sbs.com.au/news/the-rural-refugees-helping-to-raise-bushfire-awareness

But I know that you really want to see the film, so here is the link. Enjoy.

Author: Angela Cook