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The Carrai East Bushfire had a devastating impact on the Macleay community causing extensive damage to surrounding areas particularly in the areas  upriver in the isolated towns of Bellbrook and Willawarrin. The blaze burnt through 150,000 hectares of land, destroyed over 60 homes and sadly claimed one life. The fires disrupted daily life, strained resources and generated mental health concerns for survivors in the aftermath.

The Bellbrook Drumming workshop series was brought together and facilitated by local facilitators Elke Wooderson, Kerrianne Mcnamarra, Dee Bell and Kay Bridge using the Rhythm 2 Recovery program. Elke partnered with Community volunteers, Vinnies Bushfire recovery and community development to bring the workshops together and promote them to the members of the Willawarrin and Bellbrbook communities.

The workshop aimed to create connection and bonding after the isolation of the pandemic, several flooding events, and major bushfires. There was support offered to volunteers who were interested in being involved to co-facilitate and share responsibilities within the group in a space that fostered creative expression through music.

“Arts reaches a different part of the community. Community has been something that I have been reaching for since I moved here and I have been able to meet people during the small groups that have helped me form new friendships.” Workshop Participant

Participants used the drum to enable communication and connection with other members of their community. They developed skills of deep listening, sharing stories, holding space for others as they process the emotional impact of the disasters. The drumming project provided a way for participants to connect with their local community in fun ways as previous connection opportunities have been to support others in need and suffering. For many participants they had no experience with drumming and so were happy to learn new skills and overall really enjoyed the experience.

Local community members are not able to connect through the internet and so face-to-face events are a great way for people to meet. Isolation was a big challenge through the COVID pandemic and slowed the process of recovering from previous environmental disasters. During the workshop facilitators led a listening and sharing activity which allowed participants to open up and share their experiences during the disasters. Participants shared that following on from this workshop they would be able to connect with their local community in the event of future disasters.

A Creative Recovery project supported by Arts Mid North Coast and made possible through the joint Commonwealth/State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, Resilience NSW and FRRR (Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal).

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