The December 2009 Toodyay Bushfire was a very significant event that affected the local Toodyay community and beyond, then and well in to the future. A report and archival collection were created by the Toodyay Bushfire Projects Group, a sub-committee of the Toodyay Historical Society, to capture material relevant to this traumatic event, with copies of the collection held by THS and the Toodyay Museums. The production of this report by Project Consultant Dr Robyn Taylor was funded by Lotterywest and Grant Woodhams MLA.
The members of the Toodyay Bushfire Projects Group included Dr Robyn Taylor, Dr Brian Shepherd, Margot Watkins and Peter Robinson.
The foreword by Dr Brian Shepherd from Dr Robyn Taylor’s Report, describes the bushfire and the subsequent Report:
The devastating fire of 29 December 2009 impacted severely on the entire community of Toodyay and aroused awareness throughout the state and beyond. The extent to which organisations, individuals and communities responded with compassion and practical assistance was astonishing. Emergency measures sprang into action with commendable speed testifying to preparedness of which many in the community only became aware of when demonstrated.
The immediacy of the event left little time for reflection, but later it became apparent that this event, one of the most significant in Toodyay’s history, should not be forgotten. It should not become the subject of folklore with little regard to the accuracy of what occurred, who was affected and who coordinated and provided the massive relief effort.
However it was not only for the accuracy of records, but also because a thorough report of Toodyay’s experience was seen to be a useful tool for future planning of disaster management and relief effort. It was considered particularly valuable as bushfires have become more frequent and severe recently, and communities everywhere are giving increased attention to the effects of climate change.
The Toodyay Bushfire Projects Group, representative of interested individuals and community organisations, working under the auspices of the Toodyay Historical Society (Inc.), took some time to determine just what initiatives commemorating the fire could be of most lasting benefit.
Community consultation via public meetings resulted in this project being seen as a high priority and a sound foundation for any further initiatives. Opportunities to share the experience of the fire, to learn from it, and to work to manage our changing environment should be on-going and could take the form, for example, of public art, performance, interpretive displays or an exhibition.
Historian, Toodyay resident and active community volunteer Dr Robyn Taylor is to be congratulated on the quality of this report. It has been made possible through her extensive community network and finely honed skills in historical investigation and writing. She has been able to recognise and draw into the report the contributions of many individuals and organizations. These individuals range from those coordinating the response to those affected and includes many individuals who contributed to the relief effort.
All involved in the Toodyay Bushfire Projects thank Lotterywest and Grant Woodhams MLA for their interest and financial support making this report possible.
Dr Brian Shepherd
2009 Toodyay Bushfire Projects Group
Dr Robyn Taylor’s 2014 Report may be downloaded below.
Oral History recordings:
The archival collection of material preserved by THS and the Toodyay Shire Museums contains 11 oral history recordings undertaken by Dr Robyn Taylor in 2013. The OH recordings have been deposited in the State Library of Western Australia OH Collection in the Battye Library, and both the aural recordings and the digitised transcripts are freely available in the SLWA catalogue records. Links have been provided to these catalogue records in the OH listing below.
From the 2009 Report: PART 5 ORAL HISTORIES
Eleven oral history interviews were undertaken by Robyn Taylor. CDs and transcripts were prepared and produced by Doug Ayres and Mary Mcfarlan, History Development Pty Ltd. The date of the interview is shown in brackets. A link has been provided to each SLWA catalogue record.
Marlene Andrijich ran the kitchen in Memorial Hall (16 June 2013). SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: The interview covers her role as a volunteer organising and working in the kitchen at the bushfire recovery centre, providing meals everyday for about 3 months to the survivors and volunteers.
Desrae and Wayne Clarke have property in the firezone. Wayne is a volunteer with Central Brigade. Both Wayne and Desrae conducted recovery surveys in the Mavis Jefferys Reserve. (25 February 2013) SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: The Clarkes speak of their experiences during and after the bushfire touching on – evacuations; severity of the fire; coping with the situation; environmental aspects and loss of wildlife, stock and pets; regeneration of bush; and official debriefing and planning outcomes; FESA; and emergency communication systems.
Glenys Clabaugh, Country Women’s Association member and volunteer during the recovery. (22 March 2013). SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: A member of the CWA, she speaks of the involvement of the CWA in the emergency relief during and after the bushfires. The role of the volunteers was discussed, as well as the generosity of people during the emergency and the recovery.
Rosemary Madacsi, volunteer who supervised Hall Mart (in Memorial Hall). (13 June 2013) SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: She speaks of her experience as volunteer coordinator of the food distribution centre, set-up at the recovery centre in the Memorial Hall. The interview discusses:- the logistics and need for systems to be put in place in emergency situations to deal with receiving food donations, storage in an emergency situation, and the distribution of the goods; emergency management staff/coordinators roles; role of regional emergency welfare officer; duration of the recovery stage; provision and feeding of livestock and pets; and the emotional impact of the disaster.
Murray McBride, Shire Fire Control Officer. (27 March 2013) SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: Chief Bushfire Control Officer for the Toodyay Shire, he speaks of his role and experiences during and after the bushfire. The interview discusses – the severity of the fire; the role of the different fire fighting organisations; FESA (DFES) and local brigades; Incident Management Team; training for volunteer fire fighters; local government assistance; local and state debriefing sessions; control burns – mosaic burns.
Margaret and Mick McKeown, owners ‘Place of Plenty’ commercial olive grove burnt by the bushfire. (5 February 2013) SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: The McKeowns speak of their experiences during and after the bushfire touching on – severity of the fire; coping with the situation; damage and recovery of their olive grove farm; support for business after the fire.
John Mitchinson and Melanie Pree, volunteers, supervised the recovery centre in the showgrounds. (15 March 2013) SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: As volunteers working in the ‘Survivors Shed’ in the Toodyay Showgrounds, they speak of their experiences during and after the bushfire touching on – operations of the Op Shop; managing and organising the enormous quantities of donations; media; and coping with the recovery.
Beryl and Tim Officer, bushfire survivors who lost their home, Sessilis Road, Toodyay. (16 March 2013) SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: The Officers speak of their experiences during and after the bushfire, touching on – the severity of the fire and the loss of their home; evacuation and coping with the situation; assistance and recovery after the fire – recovery committee, FESA and other services; and rebuilding.
Kathy and Peter Robinson, volunteers during the recovery process. (28 January and 6 March 2013) SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: Volunteers during the bushfire, the Robinsons speak of their experiences during and after the bushfire. The interviews touch on – the severity of the fire; volunteers; support services – FESA, Department of Child Protection, CWA, Shire; newsletter; and the recovery process – Recovery Committee, allocation and distribution of disaster funds, fund raising and community support.
Richard Taylor, Clinical Psychologist, working in Toodyay. (23 June 2013) SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: A clinical psychologist based in Toodyay, he speaks of the trauma associated with a disaster; coping mechanisms and the services available to assist people in this situation; and role of volunteers.
Toodyay Bushfire Recovery Committee. Those present included Charlie Wroth (coordinator) and Alison Wroth, Robbie Devlin, Mark and Marilyn D’Alton. (23 March 2013) SLWA catalogue record Summary from the catalogue record: Members of the Toodyay Bushfire Recovery Team (Charlie Wroth, Mark D’Alton and Robbie Devlin) speak of their experiences during and after the bushfire; the role of the team; establishing a finance committee; role of other agencies – FESA, Council, Police, other services (CWA, Red Cross); communication; fund raising events; and the rebuilding process.
File date: 4 Mar. 2022. Access: Public