IT will be a powerful and poignant tribute to the resilience of the Macleay Valley after one of the most devastating summers on record.
Kempsey Shire Council, as a part of its week of remembrance, has produced a special program of community events and projects as a tribute for the two year anniversary of the Black Summer bushfires.
Council will premiere the documentary, Black Summer and Beyond, as well as officially launch a commemorative photo book - both a powerfully visual reminder of the challenge and triumph of the Macleay Valley when faced with adversity.
Jo McGoldrick, who is the coordinator of the Readiness and Recovery team, has been working closely with those affected directly by Black Summer.
"The locals have really come together in such a significant way, there has been a real supporting nature of everyone in the community and everyone experienced it differently, but they have supported one another, " Mrs McGoldrick said.
"I think for me that has been the highlight of the last two years."
The team has been working closely with the community to help out in any way it can.
"We went going from immediate needs to more broader recovery needs and now we are moving onto the readiness, which is all about remembering where we were and encouraging people to become more prepared in the future," Mrs McGoldrick said.
"It's just great to see how everyone can assist each other in getting through the hard times, and it wasn't just the fires. The drought beforehand had a significant impact on our community."
The council produced the documentary as a powerful reminder of this significant event and hopes it will also be a tool to help those affected move forward.
"For the documentary, we really wanted to get an oral history perspective on the fires, so that we could not only see it, but actually hear locals in their own voice describe their experiences," Mrs McGoldrick said.
Narrated by Australian screen icon Jack Thompson, the three documentaries give voice to the people of the Macleay who experienced these dreadful events.
Eleven locals were interviewed and their stories run the spectrum of experiences from confronting to great displays of community kindness. It also includes an original poem by Erica Macauley.
Council's general manager Craig Milburn said it is still very hard to put into words the thoughts and feelings that those memories evoke.
"The physical impacts are still there to see in so many locations. The individual and community impacts aren't necessarily as clear to see with our eyes but they are still very much a part of our lives," Mr Milburn said.
"Yet, while those fires were tragic, and the devastation deep and long-lasting, I have also never seen anything like the immediate and ongoing response from our amazing community."
The documentary premiere is on Wednesday 10 November at the Majestic Cinema in Kempsey from 5.15pm for a 5.30pm start. It will also act as an official launch for the commemorative book compilation of the award-winning Black Summer and Beyond photo exhibition.
"Last year, as part of the commemoration for the first year anniversary, we asked the community to submit photos because we wanted to have an exhibition which actually reflected the community's experience of the fires," Mrs McGoldrick said.
The exhibition was in Willawarin, Bellbrook, Sherwood, South West Rocks and is now permanently in the Slim Dusty Centre.
"We have had over 5000 people visit the exhibition during that period," Mrs McGoldrick said.
"It's all about remembering, learning from the past and preparing for the future."
With a Forward by Shane Fitzsimmons SFSM, Commissioner for Resilience NSW, the 108 page book presents not only the full colour reproductions of the 95 photographs submitted by residents to the Black Summer & Beyond Exhibition but also many of their stories.
The book is available to purchase from Council's Customer Service Centre for only $10 a copy.
You can also call customer service on 6566 3200 and arrange for it to be sent out to you, with postage costing $5 for one copy, or $10 for two or more.
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