The 2019-20 ‘Black Summer’ Bushfires were unprecedented in their size, scale and devastation. It was widely acknowledged that the bushfires disproportionally impacted Aboriginal people both in terms of the population of people affected, and the deep impact felt as people connected to the land. Yet at the height of the crisis, stories emerged of culturally unsafe and unwelcoming relief and recovery services, as well as the uneven responses of emergency services to safeguard and protect cultural heritage. In response, Aboriginal communities and their organisations rallied, evacuating community members, providing immediate relief and support to communities and families affected, and taking their own steps to protect their cultural and heritage values. This seminar draws together these stories, captured through various media articles, reports, submissions and testimony, analysing the common experiences of Aboriginal peoples and the response of their communities and organisations. It highlights the intrinsic strengths within Aboriginal communities and the importance of community-controlled and representative Aboriginal organisations in emergency management, response and recovery.
Bhiamie Williamson is a Euahlayi man from northwest NSW and a Research Associate and PhD Candidate in CAEPR at the Australian National University. Bhiamie’s expertise includes cultural land management, cultural burning and the impacts of disasters on Indigenous peoples. He has a Masters of Indigenous Governance from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.