Strathewen is in a valley 40 km’s from Melbourne at the foot of the Kinglake Ranges. It lies in the shadow of Mt Sugarloaf. Arthur’s Creek runs through its heart.
Home to the Wurundjeri people, Strathewen was settled by selectors in the 1870’s. Over a century it became a thriving farming community of vineyards, orchards, cattle and sheep. The names of many families who selected holdings in those early years are still present in the valley today. More recently, families moved to Strathewen because of its natural beauty and close-knit community which centered around the historic local hall (c.1902) and school (c.1917).
But on the 7th of February 2009, Black Saturday, Strathewen was devastated. Fires travelling for three hours from Kilmore East approached the town without any official warning. The ensuing loss of life, property and environment was unimaginable.
For the next three years, filmmaker and resident Celeste Geer documented her community rebuilding their lives. Then The Wind Changed was selected for prestigious international festivals and screened on the ABC. But only some of the stories could be told. The Big Stories, Small Towns team worked with Celeste and made Strathewen their residency during Autumn 2012. Locals were given the opportunity to create their own stories by participating in digital storytelling workshops run by the Big Stories team as well as photo essays and oral history recordings. The Strathewen community gratefully acknowledges the generosity of donors to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund which made this project possible and hope that their stories of recovery can be a useful reference for others impacted by future natural disasters.