In Living with Fire, historians Tom Griffiths and Christine Hansen trace both the history of fire in the region and the human history of the Steels Creek valley in a series of essays which examine the relationship between people and place. A deeply moving book, Living with Fire brings to life the stories of one community’s experience with fire, offering a way to understand the past, and in doing so, prepare for the future.
Living with Fire received a Commendation in the History Publication category of the Victorian Community History Awards in October 2013.
Read a fascinating edited extract in Inside Story.
Listen to an
interview on ABC Radio National with author Tom Griffiths on the 'stay or go' policy.
Watch a beautiful video filmed in Steels Creek to gain an insight into this moving book.
Within the Yarra River catchment area nestles the valley of Steels Creek, a small shallow basin in the lee of Kinglake plateau and the Great Dividing Range. The escarpment walls of the range drop in a series of ridges to the valley and form the south-eastern boundary of the Kinglake National Park. The gentle undulations that flow out from the valley stretch into the productive and picturesque landscape of Victoria’s famous wine growing district, the Yarra Valley.
Late on the afternoon of 7 February 2009, the day that came to be known as Black Saturday, the Kinglake plateau carried a massive conflagration down the fringing ranges into the Steels Creek community. Ten people perished and 67 dwellings were razed in the firestorm. In the wake of the fires, the devastated residents of the valley began the long task of grieving, repairing, rebuilding or moving on while redefining themselves and their community.
In Living with Fire, historians Tom Griffiths and Christine Hansen trace both the history of fire in the region and the human history of the Steels Creek valley in a series of essays which examine the relationship between people and place. These essays are interspersed with four interludes compiled from material produced by the community. In the immediate aftermath of the fire many people sought to express their grief, shock, sadness and relief in artwork. Some painted or wrote poetry, while others collected the burnt remains of past treasures from which they made new objects. These expressions, supplemented by historical archives and the essays they stand beside, offer a sensory and holistic window into the community’s contemporary and historical experiences.
A deeply moving book, Living with Fire brings to life the stories of one community’s experience with fire, offering a way to understand the past, and in doing so, prepare for the future.
Highly illustrated and designed
Leading high profile author
Input and stories from the Steels Creek community
Important social and scientific assessment of Black Saturday and its after-effects
Examines the history of the 'stay or go' policy and the role it played on February 7th 2009. What have we so far learned about living with fire?
Life in the valley
Readers with an interest in Black Saturday and its implications
Fire planners and strategists
"This book would be an asset to a school library as a teacher resource for both background information and for provision of case study material on the history and impact of bushfires in Victoria." Trish Douglas, Interaction, Geography Teachers Association of Victoria, Vol 41 No. 2, pp. 52, 2013
"This is a must-read book, exceptional in many ways.
It shows brilliantly the potential for significant insights when researches recognise the value of local experiences and the historical context which are then linked to policy." Karen Alexander, Park Watch, No. 253, pp. 37, June 2013
"This is a beautiful book. Layout, typeface, paper - every detail is top quality ... An important book for anyone who lives within reach of a bushfire - and that is most of us." Nick Goldie, Cooma-Monaro Express, pp. 12, April 2013
"Working closely with the Steels Creek community, the result is a poignant and inspiring personal regional history of a community learning to live with fire, interspersed with four interludes compiled from material produced by the community." Australian Garden History, 24 (3), pp. 26, Jan - Mar 2013
Christine Hansen has a PhD in history from the Australian National University in Canberra, where she was also a curator at the National Museum of Australia. Her research interests include finding stories of how people live in the landscape. She currently lives in Sweden where she is a researcher at Gothenburg University.
Tom Griffiths is the author of Forests of Ash: An Environmental History and was awarded the Alfred Deakin Prize in 2009 for his analysis of Black Saturday. He is the W. K. Hancock Professor of History at the Australian National University.