Program helps women prepare for bushfire season

Program helps women prepare for bushfire season

24 October 2011

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Australia — EVER since the 2009 Black Saturday fires, establishing how to best prepare for the summer fire season has been a high priority for Whittlesea residents who live on the urban growth boundary.
Next month, a program co-ordinated by the National Rural Women’s Coalition and Network will try to alleviate some of the stress associated with living in a fire-risk area.

Weather the Storm – Women Prepare is a five-week program providing Whittlesea women with a safe environment to talk candidly about what it’s like to live in a place where bushfires are a reality.

Program co-ordinator Kate Lawrence (pictured) says the program will provide women with the information to protect their family and home.

Moving to Macedon in 2004, Lawrence was inspired by the resilience the community endured during the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires. To understand what it was like to live with the risk of bushfires, she interviewed people from her community. What struck her most was the way women coped with fire risk.

“I just couldn’t believe how much these women had sacrificed during and after the fires,” she says about her interviews with Macedon women. “They were left to their own devices, with their children, and they had given up so much, but they remained strong.”

Awed by her neighbours, Lawrence launched Fire in Mind, “a blog for all Australians who live with the risk of bush fires’’ as forum about fire risk. After the Black Saturday fires the blog became a valuable tool for people seeking to share their experiences. And now, with Weather the Storm, funded by the federal Office of Women, Lawrence will help prepare for the oncoming bushfire season.

The event is limited to women only, due in part, she says, because of the way fire education has focused on traditionally masculine responsibilities.

“Women are the care givers and often they are the ones who stay at home with their children while the men are off fighting the fires. They run the households, they have endless responsibility and this program will help them to feel confident.”

The program will also emphasise the importance of working together.

“It’s about women taking responsibility for risk and doing what women do best – supporting each other.’’

Weather the Storm – Women Prepare will be held from 10am–2.30pm from November 3 – December 1, Whittlesea Council offices, South Morang. Entry is free and free childcare will be available on request. For bookings, call Kate on 0402 080 445.

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