Suddenly Homeless

Did anyone else notice a unique wish on the Lennox Wishing Tree earlier this year? Well, we have tracked down the ‘wishers’ and it turned out to be quite a story…

The wish was hung by Emily Rooney and her mother Barbara, just before they made the journey back to Canberra for the 10 year anniversary of the 2003 Firestorm.

They had both witnessed the fire front explode into Duffy, a suburb that had been ‘home’ for over 30 years. Barbara’s house in Warragamba Ave had been directly across from the pine forest.

‘It took me many years to realize the personal impact of what I’d seen and experienced’ Emily said. ‘Even just the shock of losing so many familiar landmarks. It wasn’t just our house, and the pine forests, most of the suburb even the local petrol station were destroyed.’

A couple of years after her parents reestablished Emily made a sea change to Northern NSW. ‘I’d always been drawn to Byron but somehow had never visited. One day I jumped in my car and drove up to explore the area. I didn’t even know anyone here but the first time I drove past The Point I really felt as though I had come home!’.

Ten years on and Emily is writing a memoir about life since the fires including an exploration of home and what it really means. Her story also outlines a self help guide to coming ‘home’ after trauma and loss.

She is also keen to foster connections between people who have been suddenly homeless. ‘Losing your home is such a devastating experience and being able to connect with others who have been through it and got to the other side, is invaluable.’

So what of the journey back to Canberra and the wish?

‘It certainly wasn’t easy. Whilst Canberrans were reflecting on a day 10 years ago, many other people around the country were being threatened by fires or floods. It confirmed there is an ongoing need for positive support for people who experience these events. It made me more determined to keep going.

While I was there, I often thought about the little wish blowing in the breeze in Lennox. It reminded me how grateful I am for this whole journey, as there is nowhere else I would rather call home…’

More information on Emily’s book and project can be found at www.suddenlyhomeless.com.


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