Four years on from the October 2013 bushfires, and while there were no human lives lost, countless family pets were lost.
A book of children’s art, which includes artwork in remembrance of much-loved pets lost in the fires, will be launched at Winmalee Public School on November 3.
The book, My Favourite Animal, is an initiative from community group Blue ARC.
The book is not only a celebration of children’s artwork, but an acknowledgement of the importance of animals in their lives and the impact of pet loss on kids.
“The impact of pet loss and bereavement in children is often trivialised or given inadequate attention, even though a child may experience this loss like the death of a sibling,” said Dr Mel Taylor, an occupational psychologist at Macquarie University who is working with Blue ARC.
“This results in children not being given the recognition or support they need to cope with their grief and recover from the loss.
“We hope that honouring their pets in this way [in My Favourite Animal] has given them another way to celebrate their lives and say goodbye to them.”
She hopes the book will also get people thinking about including animals in emergency planning.
“Hopefully people will come to realise that including the family pet in emergency preparations may actually mean protecting something that matters most to their children,” Dr Taylor said.
For the book, students at Winmalee Public were asked to draw an animal and write a caption explaining why this was their favourite animal.
Once production costs were covered, a small amount of money from the sale of the books will go to the school to buy animal-related books. The remainder of the money raised goes towards the ongoing work of Blue ARC.
Year 6 teacher Deborah Greenhill said after the 2013 fires: “There was loss of animal life and that was felt very deeply. Time does heal, but children still fondly remember the pets they have lost.
“The purchase of books about pet loss, from the proceeds of this book, would be beneficial for pet loss at any time. Books on pet loss can be very healing.”
She said the school was also considering acquiring pet loss sympathy cards that teachers can give to children who have lost a pet to let them know that they understand their loss.
Creative arts teacher Laura McCarthy said art making was beneficial for the students. "Art supports the expression of feelings which helps us feel better about ourselves and boosts our self-confidence. Art fuels our imagination, creativity and self-expression," she said.
After the launch, books can be bought at Springwood Neighbourhood Centre.