Condolence letter from the Governor-General 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.'

Buckingham Palace passed Karen's letter on to the Office of the Governor-General, who sent this reply. The letter makes clear the impossibility of becoming involved in matters of government, but it also conveys the sympathy of the Governor-General to bushfire survivors.

Physical Description

Single sheet of white paper with insignia in gold ink consisting of a branch of wattle surmounted by a crown and the words 'Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General'. At the bottom is the signature of the deputy official secretary.


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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