Sydney University experts comment on Victorian Fires

9 February 2009

Two University of Sydney experts have offered comments and analysis on the Victorian bushfire tragedy.The bushfires sweeping Victoria are unparalleled in Australia in terms of the original weather conditions and resulting devastation, says Professor Mark Adams from the University of Sydney.Professor Adams, who is the Dean of the University of Sydney's Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and a Program Leader with the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (Bushfire CRC), says the fires are unequalled in the nation's history."The weather that we are witnessing in the affected areas is unprecedented. The temperature and wind are unprecedented," Professor Adams said.Professor Adams has researched bushfires extensively in the affected areas and his former research sites in the forests around Wandong and Marysville have now been destroyed."I have spent a lot of time studying the conditions and geography of these regions," he said. "These are the most terrifying forests in the world in relation to fire."Professor Adams also acknowledged that Mother Nature alone is not to blame: "Sadly, there seems to be a human element in the form of arsonists involved."Associate Professor Louise Rowling, who holds an honorary position within the University of Sydney's Faculty of Education and Social Work and is a member of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement, says that the bushfire tragedy would have serious emotional and mental health ramifications on those affected due to compounding hardships like the drought and economic crisis."Many Australians, particularly in rural areas, have been deeply affected by the economic downturn and long-term drought," Professor Rowling says. "Coming at a time like this, these fires really compound grief onto an already fragile state of mental health."Professor Rowling says that while many of those affected would be vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder, many others would simply be struggling with various forms of grief.