It was a day of healing and hope on Saturday as 300 people gathered at the Nymboida Camping and Canoeing Centre to mark the first anniversary of the horrific bushfires which devastated the village of Nymboida.
More than 90 homes were lost in the fire which decimated properties, livestock, wildlife and left the community traumatised.
Whether you were affected directly or indirectly, everyone in Nymboida and the surrounding areas were impacted to some degree.
The marking of the first anniversary gave the community an opportunity to come together and just chill out, listen to the array of live music and enjoy a few drinks and a meal together and to reflect and take stock of how the community has recovered to this point.
The event was produced by Events Delivered under contract to Nymboida Community Groups Inc and was funded by bushfire anniversary events grants from Clarence Valley Council and ‘headspace’ Grafton.
Phil Nicholas who was the co-ordinator of the Nymboida Bushfire Anniversary event, described some of the static displays at the event.
“Grafton artist Kade Valja helped some of the youth paint the aerosol ‘street art’ boards (which depicted what they had experienced during the fire),” Phil said.
“This project was co-ordinated by headspace and there was a young lady called Inanna Sage who participated in that and wrote a story about how she drove her younger siblings away from the fire, leaving her mum and dad to fight it.
“In the big shed at the campground (where they and other community members took shelter during the fire) Inanna had to reassure her siblings, until such times as her parents turned up. But there was that period, when she didn’t know (about whether or not her parents were safe) – so she has written about it and her story is also on display.
“Another display was the ‘Birds, Bees and Butterflies mosaic bird baths.
“Local artist Pamela Denise facilitated a workshop for the residents earlier in the year and one of the local residents who lost property in the fire Liz Sarchett, co-ordinated the installation of the display.
“There was also a photographic exhibition of images taken during the fire that locals have contributed, which was curated by local photographer Minya Rose. These were printed and presented with words describing the works.
“Hanging up inside the big shed, is a ‘Chandelier of the Lost and Broken’ – a chandelier made out of lost and broken items that were salvaged from the fires; items that have (a special) meaning to people.
“This project was facilitated by creative engagement specialist Ilona Harker during several workshops for the local residents, who contributed trinkets to the chandelier,” he said.
At 7.30pm on Saturday evening the ceremonial lighting of the chandelier took place, displaying the beauty of the artwork which will remain as a feature within the shed.
Phil said that while he cannot comment on behalf of the Nymboida community, he hopes that the event will help the community, as they move through the milestone.
“For a lot of people here, this day last year was the worst day of their lives,” Phil said.
“Some of them lost everything.
“For them, today is about being able to be with other members of the community and just relax, have a chat, and see the moment through,” he said.
Phil said that he would also like to thank the caterers for the event – the Clarence Kitchen Collective who served up a free meal (which included food grown locally), to around 300 people, who attended.
Nymboida residents James and Kimberley Price attended the anniversary of the fire, at the Nymboida Camping and Canoeing Centre on Saturday.
One of their photographs was displayed amongst around 60 other images which were taken by locals during the horrific fires.
James said that his wife Kimberley had captured a photo of him defending their property, using a garden hose.
“It doesn’t look like much, when you have that much fire (coming at you),” James said.
James said that during the main fire event, Kimberley and their kids were staying in town.
“The fire came in at midnight on the Friday night and it was too big to fight, so I ran and only just got across our bridge as it started to burn,” James said.
“I drove up to the (main) road and it was just like a corridor with like flames right around. I was actually scared that I was going to run out of oxygen as I kept driving the car.
“I got out and then I returned home the next day and found that for some amazing reason, the house was still there; it surprised me, because I wasn’t there to save it.
“As I approached, there were grass fires heading towards the house, so I put them out and then helicopters (with water buckets) turned up and helped us save the house.
“Over the next six days, the fire kept coming from different directions so we had to try and stop it from coming too close to the house; we’d get a bit of rest and then it would come in again from a different direction.
“It sort of felt like purgatory,” he said.