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Beating the flames: Women escaping and surviving Black Saturday

June 2015

Women’s experiences are rare in historical accounts. History is, after all, ‘his story.’ Black Saturday on February 7, 2009 was the worst natural disaster in Australia since colonisation. Its historic significance is clear. Equally clear is the imperative to include women’s voices if we are to understand the experience and impact of disaster from more than one perspective.

In our collective imagining of disasters like Black Saturday, men are seen as capable, defending vulnerable women and children, and saving property. If we imagine women at all, what image comes to mind? This document is a compilation of women’s accounts, as recounted in 2010 and 2011. These accounts are of women escaping the fires and fighting them, and often, their experiences encompass both. The women featured in this report were active agents in their survival and the survival of partners, children, parents, friends, neighbours and strangers. This document records the critical role 21 women played in the events of Black Saturday.