Right across Australia, families and communities have been ravaged by the worst bushfire season the country has ever witnessed.

The fires have been unusual in how they affected coastal communities and maritime areas. Thousands of Australians have been forced to find refuge on beaches, wharves and boat ramps. The apocalyptic images of Mallacoota in Victoria are now literally seared in our memory. Even the Australian Navy was mobilised to evacuate people, carry equipment, supplies and medical teams to help various coastal towns.

With many roads blocked – transport by sea became the only option in some circumstances. 

Operation Bushfire Assist, Mallacoota residents, tourists and their pets are evacuated to HMAS Choules on one of the ship's landing craft. © Commonwealth of Australia 2020
Operation Bushfire Assist, Mallacoota residents, tourists and their pets are evacuated to HMAS Choules on one of the ship's landing craft. © Commonwealth of Australia 2020 

Making meaning from ashes: We want your help

The museum has a unique responsibility to share the nation’s maritime stories, to engage communities and increase their appreciation of the importance of our oceans, seas and rivers in the past, present and future. As part of the process of recovery and renewal the museum wants to collect your personal stories, images, videos and objects to help us capture the immediate impact of the bushfires around our coasts and waterways, and the community response. Whether it be photographs, posters, ephemera (for example masks, signage, melted or burnt items, personal material and community news) or any other material related to the bushfires, we are keen to assess your objects for the National Maritime Collection. Your memories and experiences are especially important. In particular, we are seeking to document the relationship between the fires and our waterways, so material relating to ships, boats, rivers, wharves, communities, coastal towns, coastal landscapes. Fire-affected communities on the East Coast, Tasmania and Kangaroo Island are of particular interest.

Operation Bushfire Assist, Mallacoota residents, tourists and their pets are evacuated to HMAS Choules on one of the ship's landing craft. © Commonwealth of Australia 2020
Operation Bushfire Assist, Mallacoota residents, tourists and their pets are evacuated to HMAS Choules on one of the ship's landing craft. © Commonwealth of Australia 2020

Cataloguing this material will help us share your stories with everyone – both now and into the future. We hope to document many of the remarkable stories of survival, hope, loss and grief – and sometimes humour in adversity.

Contact Us Now

We would like to hear from you about your memories and materials related to the bushfires.

By submitting the form below, you will help us understand the type of material that exists. Please note that these items may not enter the National Maritime Collection – it’s not guaranteed your material will be collected, but hearing from you about these materials is the first step.

Thank you for assisting us in representing the 2019-2020 bushfires in the National Maritime Museum, in our collections and programs. One of our curators will follow up within 7 days.

Main image: Eden Woodchip Mill Fire, 6th January 2020 © Dallas Kilponen