WITH the fire season just around the corner, hundreds of Yarra Ranges residents will gather in Lilydale next month to talk about preparing, surviving, recovering from and living with bushfires.
The third annual Living with Bushfire Community Conference will be held at Box Hill Institute’s Lillydale Lakeside campus on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October.
BHI’s Manager of Community Relationships Andrea Read said the event was in its third year, but that organisers had a clean slate when it came to organising the Yarra Ranges event.
She said the event covered all facets of living in a community with a high bushfire risk, particularly in the aftermath of 2009’s Black Saturday bushfires.
“It’s really just about sharing as much experience as we possibly can in this particular region,” Ms Read said.
“A lot of it is to get agency people understanding community, and the community understanding agency.”
Each day will have welcoming statements from dignitaries, followed by speeches from speakers, such as Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley, followed by Q&A panels and then four rooms of activities through the afternoon.
The rooms are split into themes of Personal, Place, Community and Workshops, and focus on aspects such as looking after country, resilience, preparing pets, emergency relief and engaging youth.
“There’s little things, like talk about bunkers – a lot of people have what they think is a safe bunker … but a lot of the bunkers aren’t up to scratch,” Ms Read said.
“It’s about knowing what you’re actually going to do in the situation – and it’s more than sitting down and writing a fire plan.
“It’s about really engaging and knowing that these particular services will happen, or this is what’s actually going to occur, and am I safe in this particular area; if the worst case scenario happens, what do I do about it?”
She said the event wasn’t about telling “horror stories”, but rather talking about the unpredictability of fire, and how to live in bushfire-prone areas safely.
Visitors to the conference will walk away with “an understanding of their place in a bushfire scenario”, Ms Read said.
“And the skills to actually manage that, going into, during and after; that they know what measures they’ll need to take and if the worst case scenario happens, then they know that on the other side of it, they actually will be okay.”
Ms Read said speakers for the event, many of whom were experts in their field, had donated their time to make presentations at the event.
“That’s the really good thing about it, is that the people who are presenting are doing it just because they believe this is an important issue,” she said.
For the first time in the event’s three years, a youth symposium was run before the conference with Year 9-12 students from Lilydale High School, Lilydale Heights, Cire Services and Doncaster Secondary College.
“It’s the first time it’s ever been done, looking at how the youth perceive this – we worked with Parks Victoria and the CFA closely on this particular project and it’s one that we’ve all said ‘We need to do this every year, regardless of the conference’,” Ms Read said.
“I remember walking in the room and one of the things on the board that one of the kids had written was, ‘Don’t have a teacher tell me, have someone who actually experienced it tell me,’ – they all sort of came out of it saying they had a much better understanding.”
The students in the symposium will present their experiences to the conference over the weekend.
Entry to the conference, which is sponsored by the CFA, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), MFB, Melbourne Water, Box Hill Institute, Parks Victoria, Victoria Police, VicRoads and Yarra Ranges Council, is $20 per person per day, which includes morning and afternoon tea and lunch.
A dinner event will be held at Mitchell’s View restaurant on the campus on Friday, 7 October from 6pm, and entry is $50 per person.
For more information, visit www.boxhill.edu.au/bushfireconference2016. Those without internet access can visit the BHI campus at Jarlo Drive in Lilydale or call 9286 9298.