Condolence letter from Buckingham Palace to Karen Gardam about the Black Saturday bushfires.

Karen Gardam lost her mother and brother on Black Saturday, 7 February 2009. The trauma of the event resulted in severe stress, the loss of her business and the upheaval of her life, but she didn't fit into any of the designated 'bushfire survivor' categories, and did not receive any assistance. She sent several letters to the authorities, including her state and local members, but received no response. In frustration, she wrote a letter to Her Majesty The Queen, speaking of her difficulties in getting assistance and her resentment of advice from 'people ...[who] do not live there, making decisions for us, and taking our ability to act away from us.'

This letter from Buckingham Palace makes clear the impossibility of becoming involved in matters of government, but it also conveys the sympathy of The Queen to bushfire survivors.

Physical Description

Single sheet of cream-coloured paper with red insignia at the top with the royal coat of arms and the words 'Buckingham Palace'. The letter is on black text with the signature of the Queen's correspondence secretary at the bottom.


The Victorian bushfires of February 2009 had a severe impact on people far beyond the day itself. Karen Gardam was unable to get assistance despite losing her mother, her brother and her livelihood because she did not fall into any of the usual 'categories' for bushfire survivors. This collection of documents shows her efforts to be acknowledged and helped, but it also shows how difficult it was for government agencies to recognise, register and assist everyone who had been affected by the fires.

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