Summer holidays in the idyllic Shoalhaven ( South Coast, NSW ) embodies all the elements of a dreamy Australian childhood on the coast; Hot days spent on white sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, uncrowded surf breaks, the local take-away shop, skipping school & getting up to mischief with friends, traditionally culminating with a ‘scorcher’ Christmas day & New Year’s Eve fireworks down on the foreshore. But during the summer of 2019-20 that all drastically changed.
January 1st 2020 went down on record as one of the worst days in history for summer fires across Australia, & in particular, the Shoalhaven region with approximately 80% of the Shoalhaven impacted or burned by fire. 12 months on from the event, & with the forest of the Shoalhaven starting to show signs of regeneration, how do the young people (15-25 yrs.) of the community feel in the wake of the devastating fires? Have their experiences made them stronger, & at what cost? What is the collective mood of the young people in the community? Has the picture-perfect south coast “Australian summer” changed for good?
New Year’s Day is an intimate portrait of four young people Ruby, Maddy, Rosie, & Lucy. Through their stories of the summer, we examine the collective resilience of the community, humility & courage amidst tragedy. In a society often criticized for becoming increasingly disconnected, the bush fire season showed the opposite. Shoalhaven citizens supported and relied on neighbours, volunteers, firefighters, local reporters, community notice pages, & more. They held fundraisers, donated supplies & money, hosted evacuees & the newly homeless, volunteered, replanted, saved animals & one another’s homes. The fires unearthed an interconnectedness & selflessness across the communities.
Reflecting on the past 12 months & in anticipation of the year to come; What will we leave behind & what will we take into the New Year.