Community to pause and reflect

February 10, 2023 BY

Surf Coast Shire and local history groups will commemorate Ash Wednesday's 40th anniversary. Pictured here is Aireys Pub in the aftermath of the blaze. Photo: KEITH CECIL FAMILY COLLECTION

An oral history project of the Ash Wednesday bushfires is under way to ensure the local community enshrines first-hand accounts of the tragedy in its history.

Aireys Inlet District Association (AIDA) has recruited local producer Alex Watkins to create a record of the fires’ social and physical impact.

“It’s amazing the memories that can come to the surface when you begin a discussion on big event like that that can be life-changing,” Mr Watkins said.

“I think it’s really important 40 years on to not only mark the anniversary of the event, but to set down some kind of record of people’s memories insights and recollections.

“The longer you wait, the more unique info you might be losing.”

While the final presentation of the project is yet to be decided, the production will be available for free via AIDA’s website.

Mr Watkins said he was on the lookout for more people to come forward with their stories from the harrowing day, and will attend Surf Coast Shire’s commemoration event for the 40th anniversary on Thursday (February 16) to show his respects and recruit more community members willing to share their accounts.

The shire’s event is at Aireys Inlet Community Centre from noon-2pm and will pay tribute to the devastating impacts of the day, while also acknowledging the community spirit that led to the region’s recovery.

The event is open to all community members and will include presentation to honour the day’s victims.

The shire will also offer support for people who encounter uncomfortable memories and emotions associated with the event.

Also that afternoon, Anglesea History House will host a screening of a locally-produced documentary The Red Steer from 2-4pm at Anglesea Community House, McMilan Street.

The event will also include an exhibition of memorabilia, with light refreshments on offer.