Black Hero Essay

Despite being in a fire-razed, Cormac Mc Carthy-esque setting, I was surprised that this learned and very gender-specific self-scanning part of me remained.As John Berger wrote, decades ago, although perhaps the observation is more applicable than ever: ‘A woman …

With the increasing rate of climate-caused natural disasters, there is a need to acknowledge, nationally, that situations will arise that are simply not containable by the everyday ‘Aussie battler’—nearly always profiled as a (white) man, videoed in thongs with a garden hose in hand.

Despite overlooking women and people of varying racial and cultural backgrounds in the narrative of Australian bushfire, this trope of ‘Aussie hero’ serves to entrench the detrimental colonial myth of man versus bush.

[Australians] accept that violence against women increased after earthquakes in Haiti and cyclones in Bangladesh, but nobody wants to hear that men who embody the spirit of resilient and heroic Australia are violent towards their families.

The aftermath of Black Saturday presents Australians with the opportunity to see how deeply embedded male privilege is, and how fragile are attempts to criminalise domestic violence.

Me—I was born into bush: the first 20 years of my life luckily spent among the long-abandoned pine plantations and 100-foot gums.

It’s lush country, freezer fresh in winter yet cinnamon-dry for the summer months—the dust from unkempt gravel roads rising in plumes, ominous, along a now bushfire-scarred ridge.

—the Age, 10 February 2009 bush overlooking the patchwork vineyards of the Yarra Valley, Christmas Hills is home to just 336—many of its residents avoiding Melbourne’s concrete courtyards, high cost of living and constant white-noise hum.

A large group of the area’s inhabitants self-mockingly identify as ‘tree-changers’ while others—often less concerned about how they’re perceived—remain quiet: happy simply to exist.

It is easy for urban dwellers to categorise the outskirts of Melbourne as inhabitable, although these areas are increasingly becoming the only affordable option as inner-city housing prices rise.

Increasingly dismissedand othered as ‘The Bush’—read: ‘live out there at your own risk’—many small communities on the city fringe are facing a growing threat from climate-caused firestorms, bigger and more unstoppable than ever.

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