Fires ignite climate action
WITH the Bushfires Royal Commission into last summer’s catastrophic fires under way, Anthea Griffiths can still taste the smoke in the air as her young family fled Mallacoota.
Visiting family and friends of her husband Kes over Christmas, their getaway soon turned into a nightmare as fires began encroaching on his mum’s Mallacoota property.
“My husband is from Mallacoota and we were planning on staying down there a few weeks when one morning we heard the fires were most likely going to hit us,” Ms Griffiths said.
“The wind had changed, we’d been thinking we were going to stay but my mother-in-law’s house is right on the bush, so with two dogs, a toddler and adults it was all a bit too much.
“Kes and his brother fire-proofed the house as best they could and then we made the decision to leave that day, we drove to Merimbula and then not long after the roads closed.”
Ms Griffiths said what followed next was a frightening ordeal as they secured what little accommodation was left; a single motel room to hole up in for the next three days.
“We were stuck in our motel room because the smoke was so bad, we weren’t allowed to leave. Otto my son’s eyes started to hurt; he was getting a cough and if we’d go outside it was hard to even breathe. I made us some makeshift masks to try to help.
“The sky was bright orange and there was no visibility. We couldn’t see outside the motel windows. After a few days, they opened the roads that had previously been on fire, and anyone that wasn’t from New South Wales was encouraged to make their way back home.”
Ms Griffiths shared her experience in a submission to the Bushfires Royal Commission from Australian Parents for Climate Action (AP4CA) as a member of the local Bellarine AP4CA group.
AP4CA is a registered charity supported by more than 6,000 parents and carers from around Australia campaigning for a safe climate for future generations
Ms Griffiths said her story was from the perspective of an individual, mother and paediatric occupational therapist who witnessed firsthand the physical and emotional impacts on her son.
“We cannot allow this to become Australia’s new normal and risk even more severe bushfires and droughts in the future. This would lead to the loss of more human life, ecosystems, severe food shortages and much of the country being unliveable.
“Our children will be put in traumatic situations they should never have had to experience.
It’s time to listen to the science and act on the climate change crisis we are in.”
Ms Griffiths said the government in the wake of coronavirus has demonstrated an ability to make drastic change, and is calling on them to treat climate change with the same urgency.
To see the full submission and watch a video with images and accounts from parents and carers affected by the fires, head to ap4ca.org.