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Refugees create their own fire safety film

5 September 20180 comments

Karen-Burmese refugees living at Nhill, in western Victoria, have produced in-language bushfire safety video for newcomers to their community.

The film was developed as part of a Country Fire Authority (CFA) ‘Summer Local Initiative’ funded project between CFA, the Nhill Learning Centre and the University of Adelaide.

The film was made using members of the Karen who helped create resource aimed educating people about fire restrictions and Total Fire Bans in a way that is meaningful to them, in their own language with local community actors.

One of the participants was Karen refugee and Nhill resident Thahser Blehndah, who grew up a Thai refugee camp.

“We don’t have bushfires in Thailand, it’s different because we live in the tropics,” said Mr Blehndah, who plays a starring role in the film.

Mr Blehndah is one of more than 200 Karen refugees who have settled in Nhill and he hopes the film will help inform his community about fire safety.

He says the hot, dry summers of western Victoria bring a dangers his people have never had exposure to.

Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteer Trevor Schwarz says

Nhill usually has at least one catastrophic fire danger day each year, according to the CFA.

Annette Creek, Executive officer of the Nhill Learning Centre Annette Creek says there have been a few problems with fires in the community because of “a gap in knowledge”.

“There was an incident where one of the Karen community accidentally started a fire from cooking fish by the river, but that was of no willfulness on their part, it was just that they didn’t understand,” Ms Creek said

Attempts to close the gap in knowledge have been difficult, in part, because some members of the Karen community associate fire brigade uniforms with the military regimes they feared in their home county.

Research associate from the School of Public Health at the University of Adelaide Scott Hanson-Easy, worked with the Nhill community to design a new way of communicating the fire safety message.

He said the project emerged after research showed public information about natural hazards were not always well accessed or understood by new migrant communities, particularly those from refugee backgrounds who don’t have high levels of English.

“This was a real gap, and a concerning gap, because it was leaving out a number of groups around Australia who weren’t getting the message about how to be safe in emergencies and disasters,” he said

Thablay Sher, one of the video’s participants, said she thought the model would work because of the high level of involvement from Karen migrants.

“It’s all about community, a Karen person educating another person,” she said.

See the film here:





Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist