Bushfire TV doco series wraps up


  Friday 5th February, 2021

by GREG ALLEN-PRETTY

Around 60 people have joined together for a celebration of stories, courage, hope and survival to mark the culmination of the Beyond the Fire television documentary series that is airing in Gippsland and nationwide on Network Ten and WIN.

Beyond the Fire follows the stories of East Gippsland’s unsung heroes as they band together to create life from the ashes after the Australian ‘Black Summer’ bushfire crisis. Created, directed and produced by Cheeky Mac Productions, the Beyond the Fire wrap party and screening of two of the episodes was held at Albert & Co in Lakes Entrance last week, supported by CFA District 11.

The writer, director and producer at Cheeky Mac Productions, Danielle McAlpine-Johnson, said that it had been a privilege and honour to share the stories of many of the people sitting in the room.

“Media does a good job of sharing the catastrophe but sometimes neglects to share the heartfelt stories and the tales of those people on the frontline, whether that be the CFA, the farmers affected, the First Nations people or everyone on the frontline,” Danielle said.

“Some of these stories get lost so that’s what this project is about.”

Danielle thanked the cast, the entire community and the production crew who worked on the series for caring about those who were interviewed and their stories.

“We believe this story is a catalyst for change, not only for the fires but for the human heart.”

The Beyond the Fire TV documentary series was made possible through Victorian Government funding via the ‘Connect Well’ partnership.

Chief Executive Officer at Gippsland Lakes Complete Health, Sue Medson, said that ‘Connect Well’ started out as the Outer Gippsland Drought, Fire and Mental Health and Wellbeing partnership.

“We’re eight agencies from the Wellington and East Gippsland area and we all have an interest in mental health, and we all provide counselling services,” Sue said.

“This is a truly amazing project that uses East Gippsland voices to tell your story, the way you would tell your story.

“It doesn’t have a narrator; it has an amazing interviewer in Danielle McAlpine-Johnson,” Sue said.

Danielle said that looking after each other is what this project is all about.

“The human heart is very vulnerable and a very precious thing that we all need to look after and no matter who you are, no matter how strong you are, at one point in your life you’re going to go through some really serious heartache,” Danielle said.

“When those times come, when those mental health struggles come, we have to remember to stay socially connected.

“You are not alone, always remember that there is somebody who cares. Whether it is picking up the phone, writing a letter, writing a text message just reach out and share you pain. When we share out pain with others it does feel lighter.

“The hardest thing we can do is take that first step.”

Singer-songwriter Chico Johnson, also from Cheeky Mac productions, gave the gathering a chorus of the song he wrote for the documentary series. ‘Down This Road Before’ by Chico Johnson featuring Nalini Tranquim and the Melbourne Gospel Choir can be found on iTunes and Spotify and its message aligns with the Beyond the Fire series.

“It embodies the people, the communities, everything that was going and the hope,” Chico said.

Two episodes of Beyond the Fire episodes shown at the wrap party:
Episode 4 – ‘Circle of Fire’ where Traditional Owners from Gunaikurnai Country in Gippsland discussed the fundamental benefits of cultural fire to care for and heal Country.
And Episode 5 – ‘Flame Fighters’ which held special meaning for CFA District 11. It shared the incredible determination and courage of Phil Loukes, Geoff Bassett and other team members of District 11, and how the station managed to survive with community supported resources in one of Australia’s most devastating natural disasters to-date.

These and other episodes of Beyond the Fire have been broadcast on Channel Ten and WIN, and can also be viewed on 10Play. The final two episodes will be screened tomorrow (6 Feb) and next Saturday at midday.