Bushfire essay wins award, prize money boosts bushfire research project

Bushfire-ravaged countryside in Steels Creek, near Kinglake. Photo: Simon Mossman, AAP Image. Source: Inside Story.

Professor Tom Griffiths, whose essay ‘We have still not lived long enough’ won the Alfred Deakin Prize for an Essay Advancing Public Debate at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, said he will donate the $15,000 prize money to a research project that’s helping communities recovering from the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria to record their stories.

“It’s important that this prize money go back to help the fire-affected communities,” Griffiths said. “The most appropriate way that I can do this is to donate it to the collaborative community fire history project that we launched at ANU in the immediate aftermath of Black Saturday in partnership with researchers from the National Museum of Australia.

“Recovering communities need not only food, shelter and infrastructure; they also need a sense of identity, continuity and hope – that’s what we’re helping to achieve.”

The collaborative community fire history project is being administered by the ANU Endowment Fund and was seeded by $20,000 in funding from ANU, an amount matched by the David Thomas Foundation.

The essay is an analysis of the Victorian bushfires and the deep ecological and historical patterns that gave rise to the event. It was originally published in Inside Story in February.

Full news story: http://news.anu.edu.au/?p=1592

Judge’s citation

‘We Have Still Not Lived Long Enough’ by Tom Griffiths (published by ‘Inside Story’, February 2009)

Written in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 Victorian fires (first published 16 February), this lucid, elegant essay responds intelligently and with compassion to the tragedy. In economical and engaging prose, Griffiths brings fine scholarship to bear on our human relationship to a very particular physical landscape, while also deftly locating the Victorian fires in their historical, environmental, climatic and geographic context. Ever dispassionate, Griffiths is able to draw clear policy lessons without acrimony or finger pointing. This is the essay all Australians should read if they wish to understand a particular catastrophe, learn about the precedents, and grasp both the particular circumstances of one Australian region and the general environmental responsibilities of all citizens.

For full details, see http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/programs/literary/pla/adprize/shortlist_winner_2009.html

Read the essay at Inside Story: We Have Still Not Lived Long Enough