The fire season of 2019 into 2020 was harrowing. It’s the worst we’ve seen in recent history, and, as it prompted conversations about caring for country, climate change and environmental conservation, it also showcased the fiercely resilient Australian spirit.
By choice for some – and sheer circumstance for others – many of us stared down the flames threatening our homes and livelihoods, while others prepared for the worst and made calls to community groups they could support through the unknown.
Sorrow, exhaustion and hope collided as the tragedy brought out the “helpers” ready to lend a hand.
Ebony Gaylor is a sociologist and social futurist, who in the new book A Fire Inside, considers the “human help reflex”, a quality displayed in the Black Summer season that along with other contributors, she shows we all possess in different ways.
“[That reflex] is this idea that is built into all of us, into our DNA, is this desire and reflex to help,” Ebony said.
“Even faced with incredible threats and risks, there’s something in us that means not only we want to help, but we can’t stop ourselves from helping one another.”
“Even faced with incredible threats and risks, there’s something in us… we can’t stop ourselves from helping one another.” – sociologist and social futurist Ebony Gaylor
No matter if you’re the firefighter or the neighbour clearing foliage in your street, all of us innately find ways to help.
“Whether that’s cake-bake sales at the local kindy to raise money or sharing positive messages, or donation opportunities online,” Ebony said.
“We don’t have to think that we need to be the ‘hero’ leaping to everybody’s defence [to be a helper]. Help looks different [across] community.”
Filled with images captured by award-winning photojournalist Matthew Abbott, A Fire Inside is a captivating reflection on the destruction we endured, but more importantly a celebration of the humanity that rose up from within it.
“It’s really easy to assume [these days] that we’re all a big selfish bunch,” Ebony said.
“It doesn’t take long looking at social media or any TV show or magazine to think –especially for younger generations – that maybe we’re just in it for ourselves.
“But, during my career I’ve seen people at their lowest.
“And it’s amazed me that even at those points of rock bottom, at the lowest of the low, people still want to help.”
A Fire Inside: The Power of the Human Help Reflex is out now, with the corresponding documentary in select cinemas.
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media. Laura Bennett is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.