Children were deeply impacted by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires. Some lost their lives in the fires; others endured the loss of family members and friends, as well as their homes and their schools.
Strathewen Primary School was one school that was destroyed by bushfire on 7 February 2009. It re-opened four days after in a borrowed classroom in Wattle Glen.
In the aftermath of the 2009 bushfires, children made drawings and paintings both to express their feelings and to express support of others. The artworks featured here are both documentary, in that they give us a first-hand account of children's experience through the fires, and symbolic, because they represent the creative expressions of children everywhere who felt the impact of the 2009 bushfires. Their importance as historical documents lies in their immediacy and honesty.
The collection of children's artwork also includes messages of hope and support sent from schools and individuals around Australia and internationally. These artworks illustratethe resilience of children through times of trauma and acknowledge the importance of the psychological as well as the physical recovery of bushfire survivors.
Children from Stonnington Primary School in Melbourne made more than 100 gifts, including the 'You are not alone' poster. They walked to the Alfred Hospital, near their school, to deliver them.
Nikhita Prasad sent her prayers from St Joseph's School in Oamaru, New Zealand. Kristian from Bulleen Heights School made the card using Boardmaker - software for children with disabilities. Pre-schoolers like Joshua took part with help from their parents, while the contribution from Caboolture State School in Queensland was expressed the wish of Grade 1 students to remind patients that the wider Australian community was thinking of them.
These artworks remind us that children were present in every bushfire-affected area, and also that the impact of the bushfires resonated with children far beyond the fire zone - in cities, interstate and worldwide.
'From the Heart: Remembering the 2009 Victorian Bushfires' is a program located in the temporary exhibition space on the upper west side of Melbourne Museum, 5 February to 12 May 2019. The program is a partnership between the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Museums Victoria.