Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


This is not about the fires

  • 22 January 2020


This is not about the fires. I walk to work, anxious. It's a new year. I always get the jitters the first day back. Smoke fills the street. I'm thankful that my asthma isn't triggered by smoke, though I know there are people who have never had breathing problems before suddenly needing Ventolin. When I go into my office, I open my work email, and read more about swathes of homes burnt. I need to write something, about something. 

This is not about the fires. I sit in the car with my mother. It's a Maccas run. As I wait in the carpark for my iced coffee and frappe to arrive, I listen to the radio. I briefly feel like a cut scene in a war movie, where a family huddles over a radio for updates. Someone on the ABC says things like: 'Extreme fire danger.' 'Evacuate now.' 'Too late to evacuate. Do not expect assistance.'

We drive home, listening to a young man talk about evacuating Mallacoota. He describes how he was stranded on the beach, the fires raging behind him. Eventually my mum turns the radio off, and tells me not to tell anyone, but my aunt is in Mallacoota. I go inside, google 'cfa donations' and transfer $50 to the Mallacoota brigade.

This is not about the fires. I walk into a liquor store, to buy wine for a party. Unintentionally, I strike up a conversation with the woman working the counter. She's a grandmother, and she's taking care of her grandson at the moment. Her son is with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter in hospital. Then she says something about the smoke in the air and how east Gippsland is burning.

Another woman in the store says she is from there and has evacuated. 'What can we do,' the counter woman says, 'except pray for rain.' I can feel every muscle in my face when I smile and reply, 'And donate, if you can.'

This is not about the fires. On TV, I watch Lizzo charm everyone and laugh in that way she does. Dance to her music late that night and another night, when I go out with my friends. I am bitter that I missed tickets to one of her shows. When I get home, on the evening news, I see her in a hi-vis vest at a Victorian foodbank.

This is not about the fires. I log onto Twitter. I