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MEETING AN OLDIE IS NOT SO PAINFUL. LINGER AND GIVE IT A GO
I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.
Australians of all shapes colours and creeds stood together shoulder to shoulder in today’s National Day of Mourning service for the Victorian Bush Fires in Melbourne.
The diversity of our Australian nation, and unity in the face of diversity were an over arching presence.
Both qualities were palpable throughout the ninety minutes, telecast live in every State, city and town. The theme continued in hundreds of other community civic and church services held during the day. It is thought 100,000 people took part in Melbourne services alone.
Millions of others watched telecasts, and the nation's streets and shops were largely silent.
The haunting Aboriginal didgeridoo played with such skill in concert with the Victorian Symphony orchestra and massed choirs set the scene.
An elder from the Wurundjeri people near Healesville said her ancestors had ceremoniously burned bush on their land every seven years to help preserve it.
‘What has just happened is not ceremony – it is torture of the land’ she said.
Many community leaders and survivors from the fires also took part. Hundreds of others attended gatherings in and near the burned out towns.
photo Sydney Morning Herald
Leaders from probably twenty different religious faiths joined together to give a combined message. The plaintive tones of a ram’s horn, an ancient Jewish symbol played as a call to prayer and introspection, and as a symbol of future hope and rebuilding of a broken world broke the silence.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd - photo Sydney Morning Herald
The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared February 7 each year as a day when flags would fly at half mast and the nation would pause in memory of the events to help us ‘rise from the ashes of despair’. See the full speech here.
Mr Rudd said the past two weeks had been a time ‘to sorely test a nation’s soul’.
‘You have faced the test and have not been found wanting,’ he said.
A former Healesville resident combing the ashes of his home - photo www.whotoday.com.au
He made a ‘solemn contract’ that each of the many destroyed towns would be rebuilt ‘brick by brick, school by school, church by church, street by street, community by community.
‘This is easy to say but it will be hard. Let us to the task.’
Mr Rudd said that such a tragedy would expose fault lines in some countries. Australians had been as one, with courage, compassion and resilience 'writ large'.
Mass choirs sang and two new verses written by Bruce Woodley for his song ‘I am Australian’ were taken up by the crowd.
The new Governor General, Ms Quentin Bryce made a simple inspiring speech bereft of trite language. We had met some forces too swift and too potent to be overcome, she said.
‘We have our separate tasks and we know what they are,’ she said.
‘To be a whole person is not to enjoy an untrammelled life. Life is not perfect and we give thanks to one another for not being whole.’
The Victorian Premier John Brumby said that we had seen the worst of times and the best of human nature, with friends taking in friends and strangers taking in strangers, people opening their shops and giving the stock away to help others.
Rhonda and Ray Swift and their former home - photo www.whotoday.com.au
The conclusion of the concert took on a lighter, determined tone with the arena crowd taking the advice of singer Michael Paynter to 'Reach Out and Touch Somebody'.
Mr Rudd moved among the crowd after the service.
Victoria still desperately needs rain, and four fires are still burning out of control. Weather forecasts for late next week are troubling.
To date the official human death toll is 209 and rising, and it is estimated that 500,000 hectares of land will have been burned out by the time all of the present fires are extinguished. Many hundreds of houses and community structures have been destroyed, and millions of native animals and pets are dead and injured.
IFAW: Jerry Galea image
This possum is one of many animals being treated for burns suffered in the fires.
photo Sydney Morning Herald
Some of the large crowd watching the service from the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation performed superbly throughout the tragedy, spreading warnings and compiling top quality coverage. Here are some of its videos and other work.
Currumbin Waters, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
I'm past my 70th birthday and undaunted.
So far I can look back on probably a dozen different phases in my life, all producing deeply felt experience:
- A barefoot carefree childhood in an Australian seaside town
- Work as a young journalist in the days of hot metal and male chauvinism
- Dipping my toe into real life in Sydney the big city
- Marriage and precious motherhood
- A second career in corporate public relations management
- Another marriage and disillusion
- Battles for financial justice in the law courts
- Re-jigging a career
- At 60 my first university degree (Creative Writing and Australian History majors)
- Fighting sometimes lost causes
- Sneaky aches and pains of the approach of age
- Living on a pension.
All fodder for writing and a valuable background for the development of what could become one day an incisive point of view.
My blogs may become a way of answering the question: 'What's next?'