During the Black Summer bushfires, the Lithgow region near the Blue Mountains in NSW, was badly damaged. Around 2,371 square kilometres were burnt by fire and hundreds of properties damaged or destroyed.
“We thought music was a great way to begin the process of healing and rebuilding as well as bringing the community together,” said Ali Kim, acting Community Development Office at Lithgow City Council.
In collaboration with the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, the local council presented a season of Live’n’Local community music events. The plan was to run some big community events that brought people from bushfire-affected communities together, however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to go with smaller venues with a predominantly virtual audience.
“We ran five events over a five-week period. Each event had between three and five separate acts - soloists, duos, and bands,” Ali said.
“Due to social distancing restrictions, each live audience was restricted to approximately 20 people, but the live streams were shared on Facebook, and each had over 2,000 viewers.”
One of the performers was 19-year-old Brooke Webb from Tarana. When she’s not singing, Brooke is also a NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteer. “It was pretty full-on last year in the bushfires. It was my first year and it was definitely stressful,” Brooke said.
“The fire only reached our fence-line, but our neighbours had some of their land burnt out.”
The Live’n’Local events gave local musicians an avenue to perform and an opportunity to earn money. It was also a great way of connecting some of the region’s most isolated communities.
“The project has made a real difference to the region. Many of our local musicians were struggling in the aftermath of the devastating fires and coronavirus, and this project helped to bring the community back together, along with the small businesses of the region. It’s just a small step in the healing process but a valuable one,” said Ray Thompson, Lithgow City Council Mayor.
The events cost $10,000 to stage and organise. This funding came from an Australian Government grant that supports local councils.
To help the most severely bushfire-impacted Local Government Areas (LGAs) to quickly rebuild vital infrastructure and strengthen community resilience following the bushfires, the Australian Government provided payments to local councils under the LGA Grants Program. An initial $1 million payment was provided to LGAs in January 2020. Lithgow City Council received a total of $1.416 million in two payments.
As for Brooke, she intends to keep singing and volunteering with the NSW RFS. She also starts university next year, where she will study midwifery