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McDonald Bushfire Image Collection

Digital Photograph - Black Saturday Bushfires, Rosewhite, Victoria, 8 February 2009

Image: Digital Photograph - Black Saturday Bushfires, Rosewhite, Victoria, 8 February 2009

Source: Museum Victoria

This collection of 36 images were taken by Robin McDonald on and near her beef property at Rosewhite, in Happy Valley, north east Victoria in February-July 2009.

Robin and her husband David, have been farming on this property since 1963, and were directly affected by the 2009 February bushfires which started in the early hours of Sunday 8th February 2009. The property was originally purchased by David McDonald's father in 1939 after he sold his tobacco farm in Gapsted. The farm was expanded over the years until its current size of approximately 381 hectares (750 acres).

David and Robin McDonald actively fought the bushfire which destroyed much of their property and threatened their home, and has subsequently had a significant financial impact on them. They suffered significant losses from this fire: 6 cattle perished and the remaining 244 cattle were agisted to a property in Queensland; two large equipment sheds and their contents where destroyed, the contents included hay, seed drill, forage harvester, fertiliser and spreader, wool presses, shearing machinery, furniture, workshop tools, two cars; most of their fences were destroyed; nearly all of the 381 hectares was burnt. David had been required to clear many acres when he first selected Crown Land in the 1950s - these areas had regrown in recent years and were destroyed in this fire. A 10 hectare pine plantation was established by the McDonald's in 1983 as their principal superannuation asset. This plantation was destroyed by the February bushfires, with only three years remaining before it could be harvested.

The images in this collection document the movement and impact of the fire on the McDonald's property, neighbouring properties and more generally the valley where they live. The content of these images sequentially documents the progression of the bushfire into Happy Valley and particularly the personal responses, strategies and impact of the fire. The images also capture many of the recurring themes relating to the impact of the 2009 bushfires across Victoria: progression of spot fires; implementation of a fire plan; use of private fire-fighting equipment; CFA and DSE assistance in protecting assets; loss of pasture and stock feed; loss of major agricultural equipment and storage sheds; impact on native, feral and farm animals; loss of plantation representing superannuation assets; loss of fencing; demographic change; absentee landowners; transportation of stock interstate; erosion of burnt hills; role of family members in defending homes and assets during bushfires; and recovery and restoration strategies.

These photographs are part of the Victorian Bushfires Collection and are supported by an oral and video interview undertaken with Robin and David McDonald.

Related Narratives:
Recurring History of Bushfires in Victoria

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