Chook hand-knitted by women in the St Andrews area and given to people who had been impacted by the Black Saturday bushfires.

Stella Reid recalled that: 'somebody gave me this chook, because nobody wanted it, because it was a little brown, ugly chook. And they'd made all frilly, pretty little daisy chooks. And I took the little chook and I gave her some flowers and some pearls and I sat her on the little bench down ... They all thought she was so ugly, but I think she's beautiful'. Stella positioned her chook on a shelf near her bed, so that 'when I woke up, instead of looking at the burnt bush, I had this little brown chook with pearls on it'. (extract from interview with Stella Reid, 4 Sept 2012)

Alan and Stella Reid live adjacent to the Kinglake National Park. They created 'Wildhaven' in 1998, as a refuge and rehabilitation centre specialising in kangaroos, wallabies and koalas. The Black Saturday bushfires destroyed everything on their property, all of the animals in their care were killled, and their home and other buildings were razed. Stella is a member of the St Andrews CFA and was on active duty during the day; she witnessed her home go up in flames from across the valley. Alan, who was at home when the fire struck, was lucky to escape without injury. The fire killed twelve of their neighbours, the 40-50 animals in their care, hundreds of animals in the surrounding properties, and (according to their estimate) up to 90% of the wildlife in Kinglake National Park.

The Chook Project was a community-building and healing project that sprang from the ashes of Black Saturday. The project was initiated by Barbara Joyce, who had first knitted a chook cushion in 2004 with fibre from an alpaca, 'Coco', owned by her Strathewen neighbours Libby and Phil Perry. The Perrys, as well as Coco and the rest of the herd, died in the Black Saturday bushfires on 7 February 2009. Barbara took the cushion to the Perrys' funeral, and from that action the Chook Project was born. Strathewen was seriously impacted by the Black Saturday bushfires. 22 people were killed in Strathewen, the greatest loss of life on a population basis of any community in Victoria. Most properties, including the local primary school, were destroyed.

The primary school was re-opened four days later on Wednesday, 11 February 2009 in a borrowed classroom in nearby Wattle Glen. Many of the children had lost homes, friends and family members. In a gesture of comfort and support, Barbara Joyce approached the school with a proposal. Each child was invited to colour in a picture of a nesting hen, and each design was translated by a team of volunteer knitters into a chicken cushion. The children received their cushions in a special assembly in November 2009. The project was then extended and cushions were offered to other bushfire affected people in the local area.

Physical Description

Handknitted chook using mostly brown wools.


This item is part of a collection relating to the experiences of Alan and Stella Reid following the devastating impact of the Black Saturday bushfires. In particular it helps provide insights into the community response through the variety of gifts and donations provided to survivors of the bushfires and the ideas of the types of needs they represented.

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