Stella Reid, local resident, CFA volunteer and owner of Wildhaven Wildlife Shelter, took this image from her property at Heidelberg-Kinglake Road, St Andrews at 3.30pm on 13 October, 2009. Both the shelter and Stella's home were totally destroyed during the Black Saturday Bushfires on Saturday 7 February, 2009. All of their animals in care perished and Stella's husband, Alan was very fortunate to survive, as many neighbours perished in the fire.

Stella and Alan have rebuilt Wildhaven and continue their work in caring for injured and orphaned wildlife. The two young kangaroos seen embracing in the image, were the first wildlife brought to Wildhaven following the Black Saturday Bushfires.

Stella offered this photograph, along with one other image, for inclusion in the community-led Bushfire Photo Exhibition, which featured thirty-five local photographs, at the Bridges Restaurant/Nursery, Hurstbridge, held between February and March 2010.

This image was also published in the book 'Footsteps in the Ash' which documents St Andrews' and Strathewen's experiences during Black Saturday. This images sold more than any other photograph during the exhibition.

This image is part of the Victorian Bushfire Collection and is supported by a series of interviews undertaken with Stella and Alan Reid.

Description of Content

This digital colour photograph documents two kangaroos in an embrace, in a bush clearing, St Andrews, November 2009. These kangaroos were made orphans due to the Black Saturday bushfires and are very close. Cooper (right) and Merlot (left), two young Grey Kangaroos, are standing within a bush clearing at Wildhaven Wildlife Shelter. Part of the Kinglake National Park can be seen in the background; with burnt tree trunks and new undergrowth visible. Stella noted: 'He always gave her a cuddle. She never left his side. Merlot had been with her dead mother for three days before she was found, near death. Cooper helped her to survive. We can not give them the will to live, that has to come from within. Sometimes they just give up, the loss of their mum is too much for the tiny joeys. We all need a reason to live'. [interview, Stella Reid, 13 May 2011]. The pair dominate the centre of the image, one kangaroo, its eyes closed while the other, open. In the background the once burnt eucalypts are regenerating with new growth sprouting from their trunks, while on the ground, new green grasses and saplings are growing. In documenting the physical effects of bushfire this image represent the ways fire damage promotes new life and how native animals adapt and cope with these changes to their environment.

Physical Description

Digital photograph.


The bushfires of Black Saturday, 7 February 2009, caused significant loss of life and damage to personal and community property, and state infrastructure - and became the worst bushfire disaster in Australia's history. The Kilmore East fire swept over Mount Sugarloaf on Black Saturday destroying most of the small settlement of Strathewen and causing the largest loss of life of any community in Victoria. Despite the high death toll and widespread devastation, an astonishing number of creative projects have arisen to give comfort and help in the recovery efforts. This photograph is one of many that were used in a local photographic display and a publication which documented the many stories of loss and survival.

The image represents the dedication and love that Australian native animal carers have for the animals they nurse back to health and how this aids in the eventual regeneration associated with natural disasters. It reveals the challenges faced by carers in the aftermath of a disaster and how these challenges can shape the future. It is an important and rare document of the photographer's personal experience as a local resident during Black Saturday.

The image is a poignant symbol of the loss, regrowth and renewal that Stella and Alan Reid (and other residents) hit by the fires, have experienced.

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