On 7 April 2010 the 'Thank You Melbourne and Victoria' concert was staged at Federation Square in Melbourne. The event was explicitly non-political, but in order for the concert organisers to say 'thank you' to the Victorian public for their generosity in the aftermath of the Black Saturday fires, a sculpture was handed over to the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, who accepted it on behalf of the people of Victoria. The Premier donated this sculpture to Museum Victoria in June 2010. In October 2010, Museum Victoria student intern Catherine McLennan asked the Premier about the Thank You Gift and why he chose to donate it.
Do you think that concerts such as 'Thank You Melbourne and Victoria' have aided the Victorian community when it comes to recovery and renewal?
The community members involved in the 'Thank You Melbourne and Victoria' event said they wanted to offer the community an insight into their personal experiences, and invite them to follow their recovery journey since those awful fires. It also gave artists (many of whom were directly affected by the bushfires) a positive and collective focus after the first anniversary of the Black Saturday fires. In the aftermath of the fires I think many of us were reminded of the power of music and art in expressing the very deepest feelings, and its important role in the process of healing and recovering.
Why did you decide to pass the Thank You Gift to Museum Victoria?
The organisers of the 'Thank You Melbourne and Victoria' event were keen to see the sculpture displayed in a place where all Victorians and visitors to our State could see it - they wanted it to become a symbol of the gratitude of bushfire affected communities to the people of Victoria for their generosity in the aftermath of Black Saturday. I thought the Thank You Gift would be a valuable addition to Museum Victoria's Victorian Bushfires Collection where children, families and visitors to our State from interstate and overseas would be able to see it and learn more about our nation's worst natural disaster.
The Thank You concert emerged because fire-affected people wanted to thank the wider Victorian community for their generosity and support. Reflecting on your travels through urban and regional Victoria, do you think that the tragedy of the Victorian bushfires has united the Victorian community?
I travelled around Victoria visiting the people and communities in the days, weeks and months after the terrible Black Saturday and Gippsland fires. One of the things I've said about those fires is that we saw the very worst of what nature can do and the immense human suffering it caused, but throughout that difficult time we also saw and experienced the very best of human nature. We saw communities come together to help each other, we saw people who had suffered so much themselves in those fires go out of their way to help a neighbour and we saw people from Victoria, Australia and across the world, some of them with little money of their own, donate so generously to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund.
How important is it that we preserve and document our community stories relating to the Victorian bushfires of 2009?
Those fires were the worst natural disaster that Australia has ever experienced and it's important we preserve and document those stories of hope, stories of recovery and stories of the challenges our communities have faced.
Letter from the Honourable Premier of Victoria John Brumby addressing questions about the Thank You Gift, 27 October 2010.