• Brett Ellis

A Tale of Two Towns, Two Disasters

On the weekend I happened to be goal umpiring junior football. As the girls from Yarra Glen battled Olinda-Ferny Creek I reflected on the impacts of disasters on the two communities. The game had been moved, as neither home ground was suitable for playing. Yarra Glen oval had been moderately flooded and Olinda being in the center of a devastating storm which has caused excessive damage across the Dandenongs, their clubhouse being used as a recovery hub, their community and those surrounding still without power, with a few more weeks to wait before infrastructure is rebuilt and power restored.

My reflections turned to the children from Yarra Glen. Many I know were directly and indirectly impacted by Black Saturday. As young children they have grown up with a backdrop of a blackened scared landscape, with trees many dead, limbs looking more like roots in the air with an overabundance of saplings at their feet, they are known by the kids as upside-down trees. Something that indigenous elders have taught them as part of a recovery project to understand the difference between good fire and bad fire.

My reflections then turned to the kids on the mountain. It’s amazing that no one was killed on that night as violent winds from the normally quiet Southeast caused trees to topple. 80m majestic sentinels with 3m girths at the base came crashing down uprooting roads and destroying homes, buildings and infrastructure, blocking access and isolating communities. They are saying the debris from this event could fill the MCG to the roof and having been up there I can see why that is probably true.

Recovery is already following a similar path, yet the narrative is slightly different with compounding impacts of a pandemic. Like post Black Saturday, there are some big decisions to be made by many. The people on the hills, like the people in the valley love their environment, they love their trees. However, this storm has unnerved many. Families will be on edge for some time to come. Many will need a lot of love and support as they endure the impacts of yet another, seemingly increasingly common natural disaster. It was nice to see everyone back at local football and a level of normality returning.

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