The Ash Wednesday bushfires were a series of bushfires that occurred in south-eastern Australia on 16 February 1983, which was Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar. Within twelve hours, more than 180 fires fanned by winds of up to 110 km/h (68 mph) caused widespread destruction across the states of Victoria and South Australia.In Victoria, 47 people died, while in South Australia there were 28 deaths. This included 14 CFA and 3 CFS volunteer fire-fighters who died across both states that day. Ash Wednesday was one of Australia’s costliest natural disasters. Over 3,700 buildings were destroyed or damaged and 2,545 individuals and families lost their homes. Livestock losses were very high, with over 340,000 sheep, 18,000 cattle and numerous native animals either dead or later destroyed.
On Ash Wednesday, fire ripped through Cockatoo about 7.30pm. As the sirens sounded, many townsfolk, mainly women, children and the elderly, fled to the kinder for sanctuary. When the flames swept across them and the building filled with smoke, they lay on the floor with wet towels over their heads while firefighters climbed on to the roof to rescue them.
In 2016, that kindergarten was re-opened as the Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre; a place of learning about the events of Ash Wednesday, as well as a place of reflection and remembrance.
This memorial centre provides a place to remember those who lost their lives or were affected by the Ash Wednesday bushfires. The fires claimed the lives of six people and destroyed much of the Cockatoo township.Additionally, the centre pays tribute to the efforts of firefighters and other emergency services workers during the fires, as well as educating visitors on how to protect themselves against the threat of bush fires.
Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre Garden
The Black Saturday bushfires were a series of bushfires that ignited or were burning across the Australian state of Victoria on and around Saturday, 7 February 2009 and were among Australia’s all-time worst bushfire disasters. The fires occurred during extreme bushfire-weather conditions and resulted in Australia’s highest ever loss of life from a bushfire; there were 180 direct fatalities. Many were left homeless as a result. As many as 400 individual fires were recorded on 7 February.
The Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre currently has on loan a poignant display from The Phoenix Museum up in Marysville, and the centre will be open on the 7th of Feb in memory of the 10th anniversary of Black Saturday. It will be open from 3pm until 8 pm. Entry is $2 per person or $5 per family
When you make the time to get over to Cockatoo to check out the Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre, be sure to take a moment or two in the reflective garden; it features a Corymbia ficifolia tree (red flowering gum) planted by the late Princess of Wales and Prince of Wales during their March 1983 visit to Cockatoo.