Summary

Audio and video interview with Mona Farr by Liza Dale-Hallett conducted at her home, Kinglake, 22 July 2010. Mona Farr was born in 1909 and was featured in the media following Black Saturday, as a "triple-fire survivor" of three major bushfires: 1919, 1939 and 2009. Mona Farr lives with her younger son, Peter Farr, in his home at Kinglake; Peter and his son successfully defended their home. Many of the homes in his road were destroyed on Black Saturday, including his daughter's home.

This is the first of two interviews with Mona Farr that form part of the Victorian Bushfires Collection. Other items donated by Mona Farr include her 1919 poem and her written recollections of bushfire.

Description of Content

In this interview Mona Farr describes her background and early life growing up on a farm in Beech Forest, in the Otway Ranges. Mona Farr recalls her life interest in art, writing prose and poetry. The interview features Mona reading her recollections of the 1919 bushfire (written later in her life), which she experienced when she was 9 years old. She also reads a poem, titled '1919 bushfire', which she wrote when she was about 18 years old. Both her recollection and the poem provide detailed and evocative descriptions of the experience of fire at a time prior to telephones, electricity and the CFA. Mona Farr describes how families raced away in horse-drawn buggies, the scarcity of water, how a 5 gallon cash of ginger beer saved their lives, how a wild fox sheltered in their home at the height of the fire, and how "birds fell out of the sky with a sad little plop". Mona Farr married in 1932 and continued to live in the Otways at 'Laughing Waters', a mixed farm surrounded by pine trees. She describes her farm and the battle she and her husband faced during the 1939 bushfires, the use of 'floppers' to fight the fire (pieces of chaff bags tied to a long pole and dipped in water), the loss of stock and fences. The interview also includes her more recent experience in being evacuated just ten minutes before the Black Saturday bushfire hit Kinglake, and her experience of returning to Kinglake five weeks later. She recalls how "there was just the house sitting in amongst the ashes", there were no birds for many weeks after the fires, and "there were heroes on that day that will never be known".

Physical Description

Digital audio and video files

Significance

Mona Farr is one of few who has lived through three major bushfires: 1919, 1939 and 2009. This interview offers a rare and evocative description and example of the enduring presence of fire in Victoria’s landscape.

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