Black Saturday: Not the End of the Story
Peg Fraser


Paperback | Dec 2018 | Monash University Publishing | 9781925523683 | 240pp | 234x153mm | Stocked item (a few) | GEN | AUD$29.95, NZD$34.99


The Victorian bushfires of February 2009 captured the attention of all Australians and made headlines around the world. One hundred and seventy-three people lost their lives, the greatest number from any bushfire event in this nation’s history.

In the wake of this tragedy much media and public commentary emphasised recovery, resilience, community, self-sufficiency and renewed determination. Peg Fraser, working as a Museum Victoria curator with survivors in the small settlement of Strathewen, listened to these stories but also to other, more challenging narratives.

The memories and thoughts that Fraser heard, and gives voice to in this book, complicate much of what we thought we knew about the experience of catastrophic natural events. Although all members of the same community, Strathewen’s survivors lived through Black Saturday and its aftermath in ways that were often very different from each other.

Beginning each chapter with an object from the bushfires – among them a Trewhella jack, a burned mobile phone, a knitted chook and a brick chimney – Fraser explores and reveals how each person’s identity, including as a man or a woman with a particular social position in the town, impacted upon experiences and understandings of loss, survival and even the future.

This is historical truth of the most vital, affecting and powerful kind.

'Peg Fraser’s extraordinary book transcends media cliché and illuminates what it meant to live through and beyond Black Saturday. Rich personal testimony and razor-sharp analysis evoke the many and varied ways that the people of Strathewen made sense of disaster.' — Alistair Thomson

'Peg Fraser teases out the meanings of the stories told by survivors, both for those who tell the stories and those who listen to them. It is wonderful to see such a thoughtful writer taking on this difficult and demanding work.' — Tom Griffiths

'Black Saturday is, like the best history, about both the specific and the universal. Ultimately, Fraser writes, ‘this is a story about stories’. It is indeed, and in subtle and rewarding ways. It is both a story of Black Saturday, and how that fire affected the people of one Australian community, but it is also a story about how people remember, and how objects play a part in both remembering and telling; and it is a story of how a curator-historian goes about the complex task of creating a satisfying and justifiable version of such a profoundly important event, one with no neat end either in life or in literature.' — Peter Stanley, Honest History