Bushfires, Storms and Floods – update 15 February 2020

Since our last update, there has been widespread damaging severe bushfires and weather events across Australia. Note: This update is not meant to be comprehensive.

BUSHFIRES

In late January the Australian Capital Territory saw the most destruction and damage. A few historic huts in the Namadgi National Park were lost. The Kosciuszko Huts Association is providing updates on damage as it is assessed. The Orroral Valley fire has seen Brindabella and Namadgi national parks having major destruction but some historic sites were saved. This fire continues to be at Advice level as at 15/2/20 and has not yet been extinguished. It is acknowledged that many indigenous sites in this region will have suffered damage, but have not yet been assessed. We acknowledge the ACT Parks and Conservation Service and the ACT Emergency Services Agency who have worked so hard to saved and protect so many sites and are now reporting on recovery e.g. in the Kiandra heritage precinct.

The Australian Wildlife Sanctuary in Bargo, a National Trust property, remains closed. The Original Gold Rush Colony in Old Mogo Town was destroyed (further updates here). A number of historic bridges have been lost in Victoria, including in Genoa (unfortunately demolished due to public safety, also recorded by the Gippsland History group) as well as the Wairewa Trestle Bridge (February update) with assessments at these sites continuing. The Genoa Schoolhouse Museum (part of the Mallacoota and District Historical Society & Bunker Museum) was destroyed. The Museum, in a recent Facebook post has requested assistance to document the recent history of the bushfires in Mallacoota. The Lithgow State Mine Museum sustained bushfire damage and repairs are underway.

In Western Australia there continues to be bushfires in a number of regions. There have been no reports so far of heritage sites being lost.

The NSW Department of Environment gave an updated summary of the environmental Bushfire Impact for NSW (as at 28 January). There have been unexpected situations of indigenous cultural heritage being uncovered after the fires, for example in Cobargo. On the 13th February 2020, the NSW Rural Fire Service declared that all bush and grass fires in NSW were finally contained.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services bushfire summary for 2019-20 can be found here.

STORMS

Alongside Canberra’s bushfires came a severe hail storm that damaged many of the major cultural institutions in the city, including the Australian National Museum, Australian Academy of Science, CSIRO and the Australian National Botanical Gardens. Wildlife in Canberra also suffered severely from this storm. Australian Academy of Science Chief Executive Anna-Maria Arabia reported on the archives collection which includes some of Australia’s most famous scientists (The Frank Fenner manuscript collection was added to the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register in 2019) saying that there was no damage to the archives thanks to a rescue effort by staff, who formed a human chain to move the boxed archives to safety.  Follow the #SaveScienceArchives on twitter for updates.

FLOODING and more WILD WEATHER

Monash University provided a summary of Melbourne’s Crazy January Weather. In February, wild weather also hit Sydney. Queensland and Northern NSW have experience heavy rain and local flooding. Reports so far indicate some infrastructure damage, and some schools have closed, but no other reports from the cultural and heritage sectors as yet. News reports 13/2/20 & 14/2/20. Cyclone Eusi hit World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island.

On the 4th February 2020, the Directors/CEOs of Australia’s leading natural history museums issued a joint statement in support of increased funding and co-ordinated national action to address the impacts of climate change on the nation’s biodiversity following the bushfires which ravaged the continent over the past few months.

GLAM Peak bodies and Associations involved in Blue Shield Australia as well as Arts and National Trust organisations have been collaborating and meeting to share information and co-ordinate advocacy efforts.

We’d like to acknowledge all of the workers and volunteers who have given up their time towards saving and salvaging cultural and natural heritage sites in Australia these past few months. We encourage all GLAM and cultural heritage sites to keep in contact with their respective Associations and Blue Shield Australia with updates at any time.

Sue Hutley, Chair, Blue Shield Australia info@blueshieldaustralia.org.au