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Thursday 23 May, 6–7pm | Visions Theatre | SOLD OUT

A graphic featuring the detail of a bushfire with the trunks of three tall trees at the centre. There is a discreet graphic design down the bottom of the image featuring teal, yellow and orange colours, resembling mountain or hilltops.

For hundreds of thousands of years, fire has played a vital role in human evolution and civilisation. Today, our relationship with fire has changed significantly.

Intense, extensive and deadly bushfires are increasingly common events that have catastrophic consequences for the people, communities and landscapes caught in their path.

How can we harness 65,000 years of Aboriginal knowledge and land management to better prepare for and manage the impact of bushfires? What does the changing pattern of human habitation on this continent mean for our engagement with fire? What is the future of humanity’s interaction with fire in a changing environment?

Join ABC RN’s Big Ideas presenter Paul Barclay in conversation with our expert panel as they examine our relationship with fire. The panel features Bruce Pascoe, award winning author of Dark Emu; Helen Cleugh, Director of the CSIRO Climate Science Centre; Professor Tom Griffiths AO, environmental historian; and Jane Smyth OAM, educator and Canberra bushfire survivor.

Meet the panel

Indigenous historian and author, Bruce Pascoe, has published widely across a range of genres including young adult fiction, short stories and non-fiction.

He has received several literary awards, including the Australia Council’s Lifetime Achievement in Literature in 2018. Dark Emu, a history of Aboriginal agricultural practices, won the 2016 New South Wales Premier’s Book of the Year.

Dr Helen Cleugh is the Director of CSIRO’s Climate Science Centre.

An atmospheric scientist, her research has focused on quantifying the interactions between the land surface and the atmosphere, and how this affects weather, climate and hydrology.

A headshot of Tom Griffiths

Professor Tom Griffiths is a historian who has published widely on the subject of environmental history.

His essay about the 2009 Black Saturday firestorm was awarded the Alfred Deakin Prize for an Essay Advancing Public Debate and he is co-author of Living with Fire: History, Nature and People in Steels Creek.

Jane Smyth was an early-childhood educator and one of the hundreds of Canberrans who lost their homes in the 2003 bushfires. After the fires, she was invited to represent the community on the Emergency Management Committee and has since become an advocate for educating the community about what to do in a bushfire. She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2019 for her services to the community of Canberra.

Paul Barclay

Paul Barclay is a Walkley Award-winning journalist and broadcaster with an appetite for ideas and in-depth analysis and discussion.

Paul has produced numerous stories over more than 20 years for an array of programs across ABC radio and is a regular guest host at the National Museum of Australia.

This program is part of the Defining Moments in Australian History project.
Developed in collaboration with ABC Radio National.

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