School of History Seminar Series: Afterburn, in the Tiger's Jaws

Film screening and discussion

On Black Saturday, the 7th of February 2009, the most lethal firestorm in Australia’s history tore through 78 Victorian communities, killing 173 people. The people of Steels Creek in the Yarra Valley lost ten friends and two-thirds of their homes.  It was a community in crisis and, as they began the long task of rebuilding, they approached a leading trauma and disaster specialist, Dr Rob Gordon, and ANU historian Professor Tom Griffiths, to help them come to terms with the experience of Black Saturday, and to examine how they could learn to live with fire.  The result is a moving and revealing account of three families facing the devastating effects of trauma and the long shadow of recovery as told by documentary maker Moira Fahy of One Thousand Productions.

Following a screening of Afterburn (60 minutes), there will be a half-hour of discussion with Moira and Tom about the challenges of contemporary history, the opportunities of working with film, the history of fire, and the nature of remembering and forgetting.  How do we embed the memory of occasional extreme bushfire in the culture of vulnerable human communities?  It is a compelling academic question, and it is also a question of survival.

NB: Owing to the unique nature of this week’s seminar, note that the seminar will begin 15 minutes earlier than usual, and finish 15 minutes later.

Moira Fahy is an award-winning, independent film producer, director and scriptwriter. Moira has made five documentaries on the impact of natural disasters in Australia, including The Day the Flames Came, on the 1961 Dwellingup fires in Western Australian and Black Tuesday on the 1967 fires in Tasmania. She is also the writer and director of the ABC and Film Victoria documentary on the 1939 Black Friday fires which won the Fire Awareness Community Service Award for Excellence and an Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) Award in 2004.

Tom Griffiths worked with Moira Fahy, Christine Hansen and Peter Stanley on the Victorian Bushfire Project, which responded to the needs of survivors of the Black Saturday firestorm.  Tom's essay about the fires won the Alfred Deakin Prize in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, which helped fund collaborative historical work with the people of Steels Creek in the Yarra Valley. Tom is co-author (with Christine Hansen) of Living with Fire (2012).


All welcome. Please direct enquiries to

Date & time

Wed 12 Mar 2014, 4–5.45pm


McDonald Room, Menzies Library ANU

Event series


School of History


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