An incredible sculpture has been created by Far South Coast public students from a charred log that fell onto a School Learning Support Officer's property during the Black Summer bushfires.
Quaama Public learning support officer Barb Fenwick never thought a flaming log that smashed through her roof when bushfires swept through the district could become something beautiful.
The piece of charred Cypress pine was picked up by Wolumla Public School principal Pete Claxton who was helping Barb and her partner clean up after their property was damaged by the fires.
"I saw it laying there charred on one side, and it turned out to be a log that had fallen onto their house."
Before becoming a teacher, Mr Claxton was a furniture maker and so carving wood was a large part of that process. It was with this background he came up with the idea to use the piece of timber for a project.
"The log must have gone out so only half of it was burnt, but the half that was burnt was very significant and the other half was really easy to work," he said.
The intricately carved sculpture has been placed at Quaama Public School, but the artwork was created project for Far South Coast students to heal their bushfire trauma.
The carving project began at a creative arts camp held in 2020 for bushfire affected students from communities within the Sapphire Coast learning Community - thanks to a grant from the NSW Department of Education Arts Unit.
There were 60 students involved from all 14 primary and secondary public schools across the Bega Valley.
"Every child at the camp had the opportunity to have a carve on the sculpture, so they all got to leave their mark and it was done as a way for the kids to have a bit of respite and time out," said Mr Claxton.
"There was a lot of trauma and doubt happening at the time and then in the background there was this virus that was occurring in China that became very real after the fires, and then we had the floods - we didn't have time to draw breath."
Quaama Public students Velvet Ventura and Stevie Whitby from year's 4 and 5 lived with fear and disruption for weeks after the bushfires.
The grounds of their school were singed and burned, along with almost all the grass, some roofing, playground equipment and landscaping.
Quaama Public School principal Daniel Roe said the carving helped the children process the fires.
"We had seven families out of 30 lose everything," he said.
"Everyone lost sheds, fences, motorbikes, pets, livestock.
"Kids lost their holidays, they spent it in evacuation centres.
"Some were evacuated four times," said Mr Roe.
Velvet from year 4 said the sculpture told a unique story and was special as "everyone who has been affected by the fires has carved it."
"It has a memory that comes with it," said Stevie from year 5. "It's not just a plain old tree."
The carved sculpture, featuring animals affected by fires, was completed in early 2022 and was publicly exhibited during Sculpture Bermagui in March.
"We need to encourage arts education and creativity among our kids again, because we had a lot that were pretty much gaming all through COVID," said Mr Claxton.
"We need to encourage kids to not just be a passive audience for life, they've got to actually get in, take it by the horns and do something with it.
"That's why I think creative arts offer great opportunities for our kids," he said.
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