The reflection and learning begins for us all in the aftermath of the Victorian bush fires of Saturday, 7 February 2009. The unprecedented conditions came as a shock and revealed how we cope with the unfamiliar. While anticipated, only in the retelling, can we comprehend.
A profound understanding occurred for me some years ago when I learned to define 'crisis' instead as a 'crisitic event'. The crisis is not the occurrence. It is the event that signifies the culmination of prior conditions. On Black Saturday a timeline of events came together over long and short timeframes, which were anticipated and were responded to in the only way we could.
It is now to the future of these communities that my thoughts turn. From the focus on the pathology, on the loss of life, property and confidence, there is also the apithology, of the rebuilding of lives, homes and community. What we will see is in the dynamics of coherence the places pointed to where assistance would be most intelligently and compassionately placed. One inquiry is to unravel the Gordian Knot of threads of the preceding circumstances to inform the future. The task is not to cut a path to a solution. The task is to see how the puzzle was formed. That unravelling has three threads.
If we think about when a community experiences physical, psychological and sociological shocks, one of these alone is enough to weaken the bonds of human connection. We often survive the physical events of flood, earthquake or drought and while there is a change to the environment that lives on in memory, we recover from this as the repairs and remediations occur. A psychological shock, such as a tragic death in a road accident or other loss tears at us and again the comfort of place and community provide support for the pain that remains. A shock to community cohesion, when one of our own betrays social trust in sociopathy, destroys the innocence of reliance and the community acceptance becomes conditional. From each of these shocks we are weakened, but do recover.
In Black Saturday we have the effect of all three of these shocks at the same time. The loss of the land, the loss of the loved and the loss of trust. For those communities with coherence in their resilience capacity the rebuilding of place, identity and connection will have already begun. It is in the more vulnerable towns, those that had already previously suffered loss of environment, fragmentation of identity and a decline of reliance that will need the greatest support in the months ahead.
The question is will we see within the visible crisis the hidden dynamics of resilience?
Will our rebuilding for the future have the perception of connection?