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Digital Photograph - 'Cooper & Merlot', Black Saturday Bushfires, St Andrews, Victoria, Oct 2009 Image Reg. No: MM 114836

Stella Reid, local resident, CFA volunteer and owner of Wildhaven Wildlife Shelter, took this image from her property at Heidelberg-Kinglake Road, St Andrews at 3.30pm on 13 October, 2009. Both the shelter and Stella's home were totally destroyed during the Black Saturday Bushfires on Saturday 7th February, 2009. All of their animals in care perished and Stella's husband, Alan was very fortunate to survive, as many neighbours perished in the fire.

Stella and Alan have rebuilt Wildhaven and continue their work in caring for injured and orphaned wildlife. The two young kangaroos seen embracing in the image, were the first wildlife brought to Wildhaven, following the Black Saturday Bushfires.

Stella offered this photograph, along with one other image, for inclusion in the community-led Bushfire Photo Exhibition, which featured thirty-five local photographs, at the Bridges Restaurant/Nursery, Hurstbridge, held between February and March 2010.

This image was also published in the book 'Footsteps in the Ash' which documents St Andrews' and Strathewen's experiences during Black Saturday. This images sold more than any other photograph during the exhibition. This image is part of the the Victorian Bushfire Collection and is supported by a series of interviews undertaken with Stella and Alan Reid.
Digital photograph.
Statement Of Significance:
The bushfires of Black Saturday, 7 February 2009, caused significant loss of life and damage to personal and community property, and state infrastructure - and became the worst bushfire disaster in Australia's history. The Kilmore East fire swept over Mount Sugarloaf on Black Saturday destroying most of the small settlement of Strathewen and causing the largest loss of life of any community in Victoria. Despite the high death toll and widespread devastation, an astonishing number of creative projects have arisen to give comfort and help in the recovery efforts. This photograph is one of many that were used in a local photographic display and a publication which documented the many stories of loss and survival.

The image represents the dedication and love that Australian native animal carers have for the animals they nurse back to health and how this aids in the eventual regeneration associated with natural disasters. It reveals the challenges faced by carers in the aftermath of a disaster and how these challenges can shape the future. It is an important and rare document of the photographer's personal experience as a local resident during Black Saturday.

The image is a poignant symbol of the loss, regrowth and renewal that Stella and Alan Reid (and other residents) hit by the fires, have experienced.
Description Of Content:
This digital colour photograph documents two kangaroos in an embrace, in a bush clearing, St Andrews, November 2009. These kangaroos were made orphans due to the Black Saturday bushfires and are very close. Cooper (right) and Merlot (left), two young Grey Kangaroos, are standing within a bush clearing at Wildhaven Wildlife Shelter. Part of the Kinglake National Park can be seen in the background; with burnt tree trunks and new undergrowth visible.

Stella noted: 'He always gave her a cuddle. She never left his side. Merlot had been with her dead mother for three days before she was found, near death. Cooper helped her to survive. We can not give them the will to live, that has to come from within. Sometimes they just give up, the loss of their mum is too much for the tiny joeys. We all need a reason to live'. [interview, Stella Reid, 13 May 2011].

The pair dominate the centre of the image, one kangaroo, its eyes closed while the other, open. In the background the once burnt eucalypts are regenerating with new growth sprouting from their trunks, while on the ground, new green grasses and saplings are growing. In documenting the physical effects of bushfire this image represent the ways fire damage promotes new life and how native animals adapt and cope with these changes to their environment.
Acquisition Information:
Donation from Ms Stella Reid - Wildhaven Wildlife Shelter
Discipline: History

More information

Tagged with: rural victoria, rural life, fires, photography, australian native animals, natural environment, rural landscapes, photographers, photographic exhibitions, natural disasters, black saturday bushfires 2009, wildlife rescue, firefighting
Themes this item is part of: Domestic & Community Life Collection, Images & Image Making Collection, Information & Communication Collection, Sustainable Futures Collection, Victorian Bushfires Collection
Primary Classification: SUSTAINABILITY
Secondary Classification: Natural Disasters
Tertiary Classification: bushfires
Format: Digital Still Image: Colour
Place & Date Depicted: Ms Stella Reid - Wildhaven Wildlife Shelter, St Andrews, Victoria, Australia, Nov 2009
Photographer: Ms Stella Reid - Wildhaven Wildlife Shelter, St Andrews, Victoria, Australia, Nov 2009
Place & Date Exhibited: Bridges Restaurant, Hurstbridge, Victoria, Australia, Feb 2010

As part of the Of 'Bushfire Photo Exhibition'. The exhibition catalogue included photograph name, photographer and details of sale price.
Organiser of Event: Ms Anita Norris, Arthurs Creek, Victoria, Australia, Feb 2010

Of 'Bushfire Photo Exhibition'
Author: Mr Jim Usher, St Andrews, Victoria, Australia, 06 Feb 2010

Photograph published in 'Footsteps in the ash: the story of St Andrews and Strathewen in the 2009 bushfires' by Jim Usher and Mac Gudgeon. St Andrews, Vic. 2010.


Colleen Donovan Posted on 19 Jan 2014 11:56 PM
This image is heart-wrenching! God Bless all!

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