Follow several exemplary humans and their response to the catastrophic bush fires that gripped Australia in the summer of 2019-2020 – from volunteer firefighters, compassionate members of wildlife rescue teams, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help their community – A Fire Inside seeks to understand why humans choose to help, against all odds.
This book isn’t just about the events of Australia’s Black Summer bush fires, it is also about the nature and resilience of the Australian people. The devastation was there for all to see. What was harder to capture was the way Australians responded. A nation forged by fire and defined by help.
Award-winning photojournalist Matthew Abbott spent months on location capturing the catastrophic events as they unfolded, and his compelling images made headlines around the world.
His photographs have etched themselves into our collective memory, as have the stories behind them: first-person accounts from the people on the ground – firefighters and wildlife rescuers, bystanders who became upstanders, doing what they could to help – reveal a nation galvanised to help.
The book accompanies a feature-length documentary of the same name commissioned by NRMA Insurance as a legacy and in celebration of all those who helped during the worst bush fires in our history.
Together, these pieces educate, inspire and, ultimately, pay tribute to the resilience of our nation that survived Australia’s Black Summer.
“A Fire Inside is the true story of everyday Australians who stood up to help in the face of danger,” said Ruth Hobday, Editor in Chief of originating publisher Blackwell & Ruth. “It is a story close to the hearts of every Australian, and one that needs to be told.”
“It shows us not only what happens when disaster strikes, but also what happens when we work together. It gives us both faith in the power of help, and hope for the creation of a more resilient future.”
“Not every story can be told in one book, but we would like to acknowledge every individual who stood up and helped in any way they could during the Black Summer bush fires, and those who continue to help in countless ways each and every day,” said Hobday.
Matthew Abbott is a documentary photographer based in Sydney who covers social and political issues that define Australia. His photographs have been exhibited extensively internationally and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian.
He has been acknowledged with various awards, including the Sydney Morning Herald Documentary Photographer Award, the Melbourne Leica Photojournalism Award and second prize in the 2020 World Press Photo Contest for his series documenting the 2019-2020 bush fires.
Shane Fitzsimmons is the inaugural Commissioner for Resilience NSW and Deputy Secretary of Emergency Management with the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. This appointment followed a career of over thirty-five years with the NSW Rural Fire Service, serving as both a volunteer and a salaried member.
Formerly Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, Fitzsimmons led the state-wide response to the 2019–2020 bush fires with a 74,000-strong crew of mostly volunteers. He was subsequently named 2021 NSW Australian of the Year.
Ebony Gaylor is a sociologist and social futurist interested in the intersections of technology, brands and the future of society. She is the co-founder of social cause agency D.O.A, driving a decade of action with businesses and brands to tackle complex social and environmental issues.
For A Fire Inside, Gaylor penned three remarkable essays unpacking the human help reflex to understand why it is that some people run toward danger to help others.
Against the backdrop of the fires, she explores three distinct types of helpers – the warriors, the worriers, and the connectors – pushing us to see that through the power of help we can all play a role in building more resilient communities.
Nick Worthington is a professional writer and the founder of The Tuesday Club, a purpose-driven creative collective. He is a contributing writer to the companion feature documentary, A Fire Inside.
Image: A Fire Inside – courtesy of Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd