Black Summer remembered by the children in the book Fighting Spirit



Raw photos and moving poems of children caught in the horrors of the black summer bushfires are part of an extraordinary tribute to Australian resilience.

Children who lived through the black summer in Australia don’t just talk about what they saw during those terrible fire days – their sensory memories also swirl around smell and sound.

Five moving youth poems included in the new Fighting Spirit commemorative book bring a child’s eye to the vivid images of the devastation of 2019-2020, brought together in this moving photographic tribute to our communities affected by bushfires.


Manu Sage, 17, winner of the senior division of the Kids News Bushfire poetry competition, where the poems are from, said the pictures and words from the book on survival, loss and recovery were “incredibly important” .

“These kinds of things get lost too easily, so you have to have something permanent to keep them,” he said.

“It was very scary, if I’m being honest. The smoke was all you could smell and breathe and it hurt your lungs. When the fire came in there was a roar… like a tornado. Going through it, and all time after that, rebuilding and all … it brought the community together. ”

Young people from all over Australia entered the contest, and in addition to the five poems published in their entirety, inspiring lines from many more are scattered throughout the pages of Fighting Spirit.

The book also features photos submitted by people taken in firestorms – some of which are featured here – as well as plenty of striking images from photographers at News Corp and others.

Junior poetry winner Lincoln, 12, a 6th grade student at Cobargo Primary School in New South Wales, said a parent told him he “made Cobargo proud”.

“It was a great feeling to have done this,” said Lincoln.

“I will never forget this image of the fire crossing the hill towards our property. It looked alive, like a huge herd of red and orange cattle moving from the side of the hill.

Ignatius Hassett, 12, a finalist for his poem Losses, said he was motivated to write because it was “such a difficult time”.

“Not just the fire, but the fact that we also lost our dog,” he said. “It was unrelated, but it was just around the same time that we lost him. It was a devastating time.

The publication of Fighting Spirit was a source of great pride.

“I actually achieved something great,” Ignatius said. “I am there in the story – in the record.”

Fighting Spirit is a collaboration between News Corp Australia, HarperCollins and the federal government’s National Recovery and Resilience Agency. Five thousand copies will be donated to libraries and schools in communities affected by the bushfires and all royalties will go to the BlazeAid charity.

Fighting Spirit: A Tribute to Communities Affected by Australian Black Summer Bushfires, published by HarperCollins Australia, is available Monday, October 4.


The road ahead is burning

The road behind is on fire

A three point turn then a backstroke

In the middle of the supernatural choir

Arrival in the village

Barely able to cope

Take shelter in the fire hall

We could only sit and hope

But the wait was the worst

When there was nothing we could do

But sit there in the dark

Wishing it wasn’t true

In the blackened hills we come together

People I’ve known all my life

I watch their tired faces

Faces changed by a cruel night

– Manu Sage.


i can see a fire

It’s right over that hill

But if we stay together

It will go for us

There was no sunrise

On the hillside

Even though my sister said there was

I said ‘No Astrid

It’s fire

No sunrise to see here today.

i can see a fire

It’s right over that hill

But if we stay together

It will go for us

Pack the car

Call the dogs

Where are we going

What are we doing?

i can see a fire

It’s right over that hill

But if we stay together

It will go for us

If we stay together

It will go for us

– Lincoln Alderman.


Blackened red sky

Fly ash, burning embers

Racing hearts, hope plunging

House in danger, saved by the river

Our treehouse left this world in flames

of fire

I remember like yesterday we sat on the

football wall in denial

Crying as we saw a blackened cloud

looms above

I knew right away that it was gone

But still hope, wish, pray against

all the chances

We lost our dog due to road traffic

I barely missed it at first

Then I started to miss biting my feet

on the trampoline

I now know that things like houses and

treehouses are replaceable

But our friends are not

– Ignace Hassett.


I will never forget this year,

the smoke was thick, the sirens were loud,

and the fire was near.

I was afraid.

Our school has closed,

we turned on the news and there was our town.

We danced for the rain, but it just didn’t come.

The fire has approached,

and our city lived in fear.

We packed our things,

and I had to be tough.

I was afraid.

It was too late to leave on New Years Eve.

Some time after lunch the sky turned black.

There was no turning back.

We waited and watched,

and our place has been spared.

But I was still scared.

Today I give thanks by looking at the sky,

for the firefighters who saved us and gave their time.

– James Fielding.


thank you firefighters

To risk your life

To make sure we survive

When we are in danger.

thank you firefighters

To work day and night

To make sure there is no fire in sight.

The conditions you were in couldn’t have

all foreign.

thank you firefighters

To help

When we doubt

And save us.

thank you firefighters

To start the fires,

Even though the process was slow,

And do it without any problem.

Thanks for everything, firefighters.

– Fintan Daly.



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