“Forged In Fire” is the story of survival and the ongoing process of recovering in the aftermath of the October 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires. Survivors share their experiences of danger, loss and devastation as well as their challenges and transformations on the road to a new life. \n\nThis film will explore the psychological issues people face in rebuilding their lives. It will highlight the factors that create resilient communities: their ability to withstand and recover from adversity. \n\nAlthough there are many documentary projects focusing on the harrowing events of various disasters, there is little about the long-term emotional impact on those affected and the issues they face in rebuilding their lives and community. \n\nAmong various members of the community who have agreed to tell their stories is Caitlin Hughes, a mosaic artist and teacher who lost her house, studio, and all of her artworks in the fire. Over a period of weeks and months we will follow Caitlin as she creates new mosaic 3D sculptures on the theme of regeneration that will serve as a metaphor in the film.\n\nThose affected by natural disaster are preoccupied with survival and the challenges of rebuilding their lives. Children, as well as their parents, are deeply affected and warrant particular attention and nurturing healing support. \n\nSergio Rosato (Principal of St Thomas Aquinas primary school who lost his house in the fires) will explain the psychological and emotional impact on children and how the schools can assist them in their recovery. \n\nThe impact of the disaster affects not only those who have lost houses but also those in positions of responsibility. Community leaders giving support to this project include: Phil Koperberg (Blue Mountains Bushfire Recovery Coordinator), Roza Sage (Member for the Blue Mountains), Mark Greenhill (Blue Mountains Mayor), Shane Fitzsimmons (NSW Fire Commissioner). \n\nThis film will ask the questions:\n• Once those affected have recovered from their raw shock and despair how can they retake control of their lives and make effective choices that lead to healing and growth?\n• How have this particular natural disaster and its associated traumas changed or enhanced people’s appreciation of community and their interdependence?
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
This project showcases and celebrates the resilience of the human spirit when faced with catastrophic loss and devastation. It will portray those behaviours and attitudes that create a healthy community. Examples of compassionate and altruistic responses will illustrate the value of strong community bonds. There are many examples of how the humanitarian response by the general public has provided hope to those struggling with their devastating loss.\n\nFor people in this situation their emotional and psychological landscape is a veritable minefield of issues to sort out. However, there can be dramatic and far-reaching costs of not taking the time to do this. These may include: psychological distress and anxiety, disturbed sleep, mood swings, anger issues, grief and loss, family and relationship difficulties, alcohol or drug overuse, and parenting issues. These are all severely eroding elements to the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
This film will impart information by experts on Post Traumatic Stress and will educate those who have been through natural disaster. This will help those affected to better understand what stresses they might be experiencing and how to manage their situation. It will also give positive messages about Post Traumatic Growth through expert on this subject Dr Jane Shakespeare-Finch to allow them to focus on their future and know that recovery is possible. This information will be illustrated by stories of those who have been affected. Their stories will give hope to other devastated individuals.
The message is that there is hope and that recovery is a journey that everyone can take. Those who are in despair will see that regardless of what has happened to them, there is a way forward and there are a variety of strategies that will assist them to recover and rebuild their lives. As well as being a document on recent events, this will be an invaluable resource in times of stress and upheaval caused by future natural and man-made disasters. It will provide positive role models by having subjects discuss what strategies worked for them in their long-term recovery. Affirmative life changes can grow from personal experiences of breakdown and trauma.\n\nThis film will be an educational resource available for many years to come. We are extending the range of audience for this documentary by making the themes as universal as possible.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
This subject matter would be of great interest to the international community potentially via TEDx as natural and man-made disasters are a global reality.\n\nThis film can be distributed and disseminated locally in a variety of ways. \n• A dedicated website that features clips from the film with level of interactivity with opportunities for audiences to contribute their own stories.\n• Distribution to the educational market could accompany RFS educational material on bushfire protection. \n• A study guide for secondary and tertiary students. Teachers can download a PDF file with questions designed to stimulate discussion on mental health and social connectedness. \n• Material could be tailored for the websites of various community organizations e.g., Rural Fire Service, Blue Mountains City Council and other councils in natural disaster prone areas. \n• RFS could use the film for fund-raising events.\n• Material could be tailored for the websites Red Cross, Beyond Blue, Mental Health Departments, Education Departments (School principals and counselors), Rural Health organisations, Rotary clubs etc. \n• There is the potential to create an educational book that addresses the issues in the film that will be ready at the same time as the documentary is released.