A story from Kangaroo Island in South Australia reflecting life in November 2020.
Everyone works through trauma in their own way. For one group on Kangaroo Island, producing a video of locals in song has been remarkably helpful.
“A huge number of people in the video lost their homes – there was something deeply significant in how a lot of the people who put their hand up were people who had lost everything and wanted to do something positive,” explained Alice Teasdale, one of the organisers of the Kangaroo Island Community Couch Choir.
The online video of the choir singing ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers, is a tribute to the resilience and community spirit on Kangaroo Island. More than a hundred people from the island took part in the sing-a-long.
Alice Teasdale runs a printing and graphic design business on Kangaroo Island. She says a call was put out on Facebook asking for choir members and soon they had many people wanting to take part.
“We distributed the instructions, and we said to everyone ‘we will use whatever you send us, and we will find a way to incorporate your contribution somehow’,” said Alice. “’If you want to show us driving your tractor, that’s great, we’d love to see that. If you just want to dance a bit and boogie, that’s fine too, you don’t have to sing’.”
Alice said making this video allowed the community to focus on having some fun together by doing something positive. “It was ‘let’s do this fun thing’ and what the community’s been through was kind of implicit. While the fires are an ongoing topic of sharing and debriefing here, this was a chance to do something cheerful, upbeat and a bit silly in the face of that. It was just this massive connection and building relationships and networks,” she said.
“For many families, participating in the video also went much deeper – let’s do this project to teach my child about community and teach my child about solidarity and about music – so it is ticking all sorts of boxes.”
Communal sing-a-longs were also organised so people could get together.
“A group of us met at Remarkable Rocks just after Flinders Chase National Park reopened and it was actually a really emotional outing. The park is completely razed and the rocks are so different since the fires,” she said. “This is what devastation looks like, but to go there together and to have a laugh and have a sing, that was an amazing day out.”
Alice said watching the video allowed many people to have the good cry they needed. “When we saw the finished video, it was full on. It was watched a thousand times in the first day. I just watched the hit rate rising,” she said.
They received funding from CSAPHN (Country South Australia Primary Health Network) and Wellbeing SA for video editing and licensing. CSAPHN funding came through the Community Connectedness and Recovery Grants.
Now nearly a year on, Alice said the community is starting to get nervous about the new fire season. “This is going to be a very traumatic summer for a lot of people, it’s already begun to be so. We’ve already had a night of extreme wind and lightning, and lightning is always the problem here – the dry lightning.”
However, she said it is good to remember that the message of the video is not ‘Hey look, we’re fine!’, it’s ‘Hey look, we are together in this’.
See what the Kangaroo Island Community Couch Choir produced: https://vimeo.com/463704410