Today I went to a lovely reception at Government House in Melbourne. The occasion? Receiving a National Emergency Medal for services in both the Victorian Bushfires in 2009 and the Queensland Floods in 2010/11. It was fabulous to be there with dedicated colleagues, both volunteers and staff, seeing them be recognised for what was one of the grimmest days and weeks of our recent history. The days after Black Saturday for me are a blur, other than being long, and being sobered by the increasing toll, and the ongoing threat (we forget that it wasn’t over on the day).
Recognition is an interesting thing. This is not what we get out of bed for in for morning. And for some of us, this is what we get paid to do. Some of it is about the over and above. Sure, we work in emergency services, but this is recognition for the impact on our lives, the ones we don’t often think about; bed time stories not read, footballs not kicked, dogs not walked, dinners not cooked, and those left to pick up the pieces.
It is also somewhat fraught. While I feel privileged to receive one of these medals, I feel the work that I did outside the “qualifying period” was of way more value and use to people experiencing bereavement, and a community trying to conceive how to commemorate the fires, that that done during the high intensity period.
This leads me again to the way we value recovery. Many people have worked, and continue to work tirelessly, going above and beyond, in the recovery from the bushfire, but won’t be recognised in this manner. As we once actually got our Minister to say in parliament, Recovery will be ongoing, there are no ticker tape parades for recovery workers. It would be nice to recognise this work, in the same way that we recognise the response work.
So apart from dedicating this medal to those that lost on the day, and afterwards, and my family and friends who supported me through these times, this is dedicated to the recoverers, who were out there in the cold, banging on people’s doors, sitting in caravans, going to community events, standing up in front of hostile crowds, butting up against bureaucracy, sitting in meeting rooms, drinking copious cups of tea, driving long distances, laughing and crying, and taking on layer upon layer of burdens.
This one’s for you, the half back flankers of disaster management.
This was the song that kept me going through this dark period