‘Regeneration’ project helping locals like Patti with bushfire recovery
Hope is returning as fresh green shoots sprout up from Kangaroo Island’s burnt landscape, but the blackened scars beneath the surface will always remind locals of that fateful 2019/20 bushfire-ridden summer.
They’re a resilient lot, but it’s the mental health scars beneath the surface for the locals themselves which will need the most attention now, too.
Thankfully, the Regeneration* project aims to help heal these scars, supported by The Hospital Research Foundation Group and partners – including Magda Szubanski and Will Connolly – by facilitating trauma-informed arts workshops to help the psychological recovery of the community.
Patti Blucher, a born and bred Islander and artist who was forced to evacuate her home near Vivonne Bay for three weeks as the fires swept through the island, is passionate about how creative arts can benefit mental health and quickly signed up to the arts workshops being offered as part of Regeneration.
“The community sometimes needs a space to come together where there’s no expectations,” she says.
“It’s just that you’re together, sharing a space and there’s no judgement on each other or the work you’re producing; or not producing.”
Patti’s home and sheds were saved in the bushfires, incredibly wedged between scorched land to the front and back of her property.
However as a jeweller and painter, her ability to sell her works was hit hard by the lack of tourism which followed and the physical gallery locations which had been decimated.
Her recovery was boosted through moving her business online (byblu.com.au), and she hopes to support the community get back on its feet through running trauma-informed arts workshops with the knowledge gained from the Regeneration program held this month, which legendary comedian Magda attended.
“I’ve run some mental health workshops before and I see the benefits. I encourage painting outside of the lines, not having any rules, just being intuitive with your art,” Patti says.
“A lot of people here on the Island are still really raw, so we 100% welcome things like this which are for the right reasons.
“Since the fires we’ve had so many visitors, so it’s not necessarily about Magda visiting, it’s the program she represents. There’s a genuine caring of community and mental health and wellbeing that I think is really beautiful.”
So as life begins to regenerate on the fire-ravaged island, so too does the hope of a bright future for its locals through this important and innovative program.
The Regeneration arts workshops on K.I. are being facilitated by the Centre for Creative Health, a charity of The Hospital Research Foundation Group, with research and training support from Military Emergency Services Health Australia, University of Canberra and Phoenix Australia.
If you would like to find out more and support the mental health recovery of bushfire-affected communities, please visit regeneration.hospitalresearch.com.au