Early in the morning of New Years Eve 2019, a devastating bushfire tore through Cobargo, NSW and surrounding areas. The speed and ferocity of the fire however caught everyone off guard, destroying an extensive number of properties, killing cattle and wildlife, and causing immediate loss of human life. On the afternoon of 31 December 2019, only hours before what should have been a night of celebration, much of Cobargo lay in ruins, buildings and homes had been decimated and people were at a loss as to fathom what they had just experienced. Everything was still on fire.
In the following days, weeks and months, people have been forced to come to terms with the enormity of what struck them and their town. The fire was of such rage and intensity, fuelled by immense forest undergrowth and prolonged drought, that it turned everything black, even large open fields – often thought to be immune to fire – were burnt to the soil. This wasn’t an isolated event; fires had been terrorising the east coast of Australia since late winter, a sign that the 2019/20 summer would be one of the worst fire seasons in history. And it turned out to be true.
The Longest Road responds to the aftermath of the 2019/20 Australian bushfire season, taking particular interest in the documentation of the people who it affected, and how they continue to respond as individuals and together as a community. Those who experience bushfires firsthand are inevitably affected, and many suffer physical and emotional trauma that lasts long after the grass and trees have regrown, and homes and buildings have been repaired and rebuilt. The landscape will come back to life, sometimes very quickly, but the human toll can last much longer.