The Black Saturday Anniversary is a significant time for the Strathewen community to come together and remember the impact of the firestorm which occurred in 2009. Each year, the community has a ritual of coming together at the Strathewen Memorial, reading the names of those who died, sharing a minute’s silence and spending some time together at the nearby pavilion.

A special art therapy project was undertaken in 2015 with some past and present students of Strathewen Primary School. The aim of the project was to support the children in their response to the Strathewen Memorial and its story of loss and recovery. In addition it aimed to introduce the children to the Blacksmith Tree which is also located in Strathewen and dedicated to all Victorians involved in Black Saturday.

The rituals of remembering project description

The children visited the Strathewen Bushfire Memorial site and read the community’s words describing Strathewen before the fire, the day of the fire and the recovery process.

Reading the story of Black Saturday in Strathewen

They visited the Blacksmith Tree with all its leaves which carry a name or a message.

Looking at the Blacksmith tree

Using clay, the children looked at symbols to express their response to both the Strathewen Bushfire Memorial and the Blacksmith Tree. They cut out round mandala shapes reflecting the circles of the Strathewen Memorial. These were texturised, painted and glazed.

Children at work creating

Children painting clay

The children cut out clay leaves which were also painted and glazed. The mandalas and leaves were prepared as gifts to be given to visitors at the Anniversary gathering in 2016.

All the mandalas

Clay mandala shapes reflecting circles of Strathewen Bushfire Memorial


All the leaves

Clay leaves reflecting Blacksmith Tree

The children also designed an ephemeral artwork on either side of the pathway leading to the Strathewen Memorial. They used sand, stones and bark and their completed gifts were put in place on the day of the Anniversary.

Ephemeral artwork

This creative project:

  • allowed children to participate in a ritual of remembering within their community
  • strengthened understanding and knowledge of the process of grief, trauma, loss, resilience and recovery
  • allowed children to understand the importance of symbols that carry memory and feelings for a community
Ephemeral artwork - 2

Ephemeral artwork on pathway to Memorial