REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Six months after our world was razed on Kangaroo Island

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend.

Kangaroo Island local Walter "Wally" Martain was employed by the Fleurieu Regional Waste Authority to be the site worker at the Gosse bushfire waste pit.

Kangaroo Island local Walter "Wally" Martain was employed by the Fleurieu Regional Waste Authority to be the site worker at the Gosse bushfire waste pit.

Six months on from Kangaroo Island's huge bushfires and we can finally take some time to reflect on the numbers.

Despite rolling off the tongue, the stats are truly shocking.

About 200,000 hectares, or almost half the Island, was burned over three weeks in three separate fires, all caused by lightning.

As many as 60,000 sheep and other livestock were lost - which is estimated to be about 70 per cent of Australia's total stock losses due to the black summer of bushfires.

There were 89 homes and properties destroyed, that's a lot on a sparsely populated Island of only 4500 people, resulting in 21,000 tonnes of asbestos contaminated rubble and steel to bury or recycle.

An incinerated koalas on the floor of a destroyed blue gum timber plantation on Kangaroo Island.

An incinerated koalas on the floor of a destroyed blue gum timber plantation on Kangaroo Island.

Countless kangaroos, wallabies and possums were incinerated and as many as 45,000 koalas killed after 95 per cent of the Island's blue gum timber plantations, where they lived, were destroyed.

There were also two lives lost and total disruption for the families whose properties were burned and livelihoods set back.

In some cases a lifetime of work was gone.

Yet, we are not alone on Kangaroo Island. I see the same devastating and lingering impacts of fire on my old Cobargo community.

This is how western Kangaroo Island looked on Google Earth in January 2020 and then June 2020. The burn scar is still clear, meaning the land has a long way to recover.

This is how western Kangaroo Island looked on Google Earth in January 2020 and then June 2020. The burn scar is still clear, meaning the land has a long way to recover.

Having spent 12 years on the NSW South Coast, I know these people, catching up with them every year at the Cobargo Show.

On the Island, to some degree, we may be better off as bushfire survivors. This community is naturally self-sufficient, self-contained and the Island's plight captured the attention of the state, country and world.

There are common themes across bushfire grounds, such as the difficulty of filling in paperwork, the survivor guilt and dealing with the loss of life and livelihoods.

Mysterious lines through the scrub on the south coast of Kangaroo Island where the fire somehow left unburned tree tops in wavy lines that run for kilometres.

Mysterious lines through the scrub on the south coast of Kangaroo Island where the fire somehow left unburned tree tops in wavy lines that run for kilometres.

Attention seems focused on hazard reduction and native vegetation, but there seems to be an unwillingness by many to accept climate change is responsible for the ferocity and expanse of these events.

Bushfire is a weather event, driven by drought, heat and wind. Sure we can try and manage the bush, but until we work together as a planet, there is only going to be more disaster and destruction.

One could argue, the bushfire disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic are linked, a symptom of too many people on the planet tearing apart the natural order of things.

- Stan Gorton, journalist, The Islander.

More stuff happening around Australia ...

Sign up to get our Voice of Real Australia updates straight to your inbox

Comments