Black Summer and Beyond, an exhibition of images from the Macleay, was officially opened at the Willawarrin Hall today.
Sunday, November 8, marks one year since the Carrai East Bushfire picked up speed and ferocity as it moved towards the upriver communities of Bellbrook and Willawarrin.
The travelling exhibition of photos taken by those impacted by the fires that swept across the Macleay last year will move across the shire to commemorate the one year anniversary of the 2019 fires.
Mayor Liz Campbell opened the exhibition at Willawarrin Hall and said this is a time to reflect on the past 12 months.
"This time is to reflect on the devastation of what happened 12 months ago. We have so much to reflect on and give thanks for," she said.
"The exhibition is to mark what the community went through last year."
During mayor Campbell's emotional speech she said it has been the resilience and bravery of locals that has stood out to her over the past year.
The images will both break your heart and uplift your spiritsMayor Liz Campbell
"What we went through sometimes seems like a blur, but I do remember the bravery, the courage and the kindness of our community," she said.
"We are so proud to be Macleay Valley people."
The Carrai East Bushfire burnt through 150,000 hectares of land and destroyed 67 homes in the Kempsey LGA.
Council received well over 300 submissions from members of the community in response to the call for entries for the exhibition, including many amazing, previously unpublished photos of the fires, the aftermath and the 12 months of recovery since that time. A selection of these have been mounted in various formats while the remaining photos can be viewed on a slideshow at the exhibition.
Local resident Sally Argue has two photos in the exhibition, one of her father and his horse looking for their cattle two days after the fire and another of their cattle standing in a burnt paddock at Mungay Flat.
"It's very surreal to see the photos I took along with all of the others. It makes you relive that day all over again," Sally told the Argus.
"I feel honoured to have taken that photo of my dad, but at the same time I feel like I shouldn't have taken it. I can't imagine what he was feeling in that moment, looking for his cattle two days after the fire burnt our farm."
Fortunately the fire didn't destroy the Argue's home or claim the lives of their cattle, it did however burn most of their land and pastures.
"Around 80 per cent of our property was burnt and we had no feed for the cattle," Sally said.
"It's all green at the moment, it's one of the best seasons we've had. I think that's why it's so surreal to look back at these images and see them blown up like this."
Volunteers from Disaster Relief Australia also attended opening and announced the winner of Best Photo. The award and prize of $500 and an Akubra hat went to Rebecca Gale for her striking black and white image 'Strength and Resilience'. There will also be a People's Choice award at the conclusion of the exhibition.
The exhibition will be open to the public every day from 10am - 3pm on the following dates and locations:
- Willawarrin Hall, Sat 7 - Sun 15 November
- Bellbrook Hall, Sat 21 - Tue 24 November
- Sherwood Hall, Fri 27 - Mon 30 November
"Council wanted to mark the anniversary of the fires and capture one of the darkest chapters through the lens of our community and this exhibition is the perfect way of doing so," Mayor Campbell said.
"The images will both break your heart and uplift your spirits."