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Visit to Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre
On Thursday 1 March 2018, the Organisational Development team from CFA Headquarters visited the Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre.
Included in the visit was a tour and briefing from Graham Simpson AFSM, Chairman – Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre (AWBEC). Graham was the Cockatoo Fire Brigade captain during the Ash Wednesday tragedy.
Situated at 2 McBride Street, Cockatoo, the Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre tells the stories of the eight major fires in Victoria and the three major fires in South Australia on 16 February 1983. There is a local history section about Cockatoo along with other information shown through photos and stories of each fire on touch screens.
The Ash Wednesday disaster was a series of bushfires that caused widespread destruction across the states of Victoria and South Australia. The fires became the deadliest bushfire in Australian history until the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
In Victoria 47 people died, which included 13 CFA volunteer firefighters.
Built in 1977, the building served as a refuge for 300 men, women, children and pets during the Ash Wednesday bushfires. In 2011 the council decided to demolish the building and the local community protested. Heritage Victoria has now listed the building as a heritage site for being significant to the State of Victoria.
After a lot of hard work and funding secured through the council, Federal Government and Heritage Victoria, the building was opened in July 2016 as an education centre.
Recently the centre launched an ‘Ash Wednesday Memorial’ designed by Graham, which represents the major fires across Victoria. The yellow tops on the posts represent the firefighters, the black mulch represents the ash from the bushfires and the plants represent the new life after the fires. The names of the fires are engraved into the length of the post, the four digits on the yellow tops represent the time the fire was reported and the other digits at the top of the post represent the lives lost at that fire.