Please join us for the next in our FAD seminar series, hosted by the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research.
Date: Monday 19 April 2021
Time: 1:30pm - 2:30pm
Location: Building 6, room 06C14 or online via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/92000505159?pwd=R3V4ekxOVE1PcFZRakdyTys0T0tQdz09
Presenter: Dr Olga Walker
Title: Writing from overcrowded places into hollowed out spaces: Life, before and after bushfire fighting
Abstract and author bio: I completed my PhD in 2019 and graduated in the October of that year. I am also a bushfire fighter who stood at the end of a hose putting out fires. If we were not quick enough, flames would move beyond any semblance of control and climb the trees of the forest I worked in, scattering birds, their squawking piercing the air as they flew away.
Of course, I did not work alone. Being on a fire-ground with other crew members and, after a 12 to 15+ hour shift, hopping back on the truck to return to the ‘Shed’ generated a ‘bonding’ like no other I have experienced. When not on the truck, I worked on the radio with a small communications cell at FireCom. Here, we ‘listened in’ as crews responded to callouts. Snatches of radio-talk created half built pictures of what was happening on the fire-ground. Again, shared emotional experiences of anguish, joy, and team bonding featured.
But, as the bushfire season progressed and we moved from October 2019 to March 2020, comments in relation to auto-ethnography made by one of my PhD examiners were firing my imagination like bursts of flame and noise from a rocket. This, at a time, when I at last understood the impacts of life experiences on my writing. Consequently, in this project I use an auto-ethnographic approach to track how I balance what became my everyday firefighting experiences, both positive and negative, with life just before and beyond the fire-ground.
The learnings have been intense, but for me creative writing is that hollowed out space where I can breathe calmly. It is also a place where I am safe to feel excitement at the prospect of working at my ‘creative writing’ again.
Writing through overcrowded places into hollowed out spaces: Life, before and after, bushfire fighting, is one expression of that excitement and is undertaken as part of my project for the University of Canberra’s Donald Horne Creative and Cultural Fellowship. The other part of the project consists of a Collection of poems, entitled Sensitivities.
I would like to thank and acknowledge the support of the University of Canberra through the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research for this opportunity to write about my PhD, Firie and Covid-19 experiences of 2019-2020.