Ashes 2 Green: Finding Hope after the Valley Bushfires

1st/2nd & 15th/16th May, Nambucca Valley

‘Ashes 2 Green’ is a free 4-day project bringing together young people from across the Nambucca Valley who have been affected by the 2019 bushfires.  We know how important it is that youth have a chance to come together to share their experiences of the fires to heal and build resilience.  This is also an opportunity for young people to have a voice about our changing landscape and planet due to climate change.

There will be opportunities to connect with other young people in your area who have been through similar hard times, to share stories, experiences and food together, to have fun and laugh, to slow down and relax in nature, to find hope again amongst the ashes.


The Kian Rd fire burnt through the southern half of the Nambucca Valley, burning 20% of the council shire area and is the worst natural disaster ever in this area.  Some 62 homes and 134 out-buildings were destroyed and a further 19 homes, 2 facilities and 26 outbuildings were damaged. 

Our communities have suffered in the loss of natural habitat, the native forests which we have created our homes around and the immense loss of native wildlife.   Finding dead koalas, possums, birds, wallabies was a shocking realisation of how intense the fires were and this devastation rippled throughout the families dedicated to protecting country and stewarding the land.  

Many youth in our community were out fighting fires and some as young as 12 have since been assisting in recovery and rebuilding efforts, volunteering for organisations such as Blaze Aid.  Some families are still waiting for homes to be rebuilt.  We know that children and young people in our community are still hurting, from witnessing the devastation themselves and bearing the impact on family functioning. 


If you have been impacted by the 2019 bushfires in the Nambucca Valley and are aged between 12 and 25, then we’d loved you to join us.

What does it mean to be impacted?  It can be any or all of the following:

  • Loss of home, personal items or pets
  • Evacuated from home
  • Watched the disaster unfold on social media or the news
  • Hearing ongoing sad stories about the disaster
  • Have ongoing memories about the event
  • Supporting friends or neighbours who were affected
  • Worried about future of fires or other disasters in our valley and on our planet
  • Worried about your safety and future


We will be gathering at Spirit of the Rainforest (SOTR), a private retreat at South Arm impacted by the 2019 bushfires.  As passionate stewards of the land, they have been working non-stop to rebuild, revegetate and regenerate, working once again towards creating wildlife corridors and biodiverse habitats with future generations in mind.  It is a Designated Land for Wildlife property with extensive local rainforest/garden plantings and native eucalypt gullies.  A lot has changed at SOTR since the fires, yet there is still immense beauty in landscape, with the forests flushing with green growth and the strong diversity of birds and frogs apparent. 

The property features AirBnB accommodation with a commercial kitchen, ‘The Shed’ and a striking Fig Tree which will be used for our gathering and eating places.  There are toilets available at the SOTR accommodation ‘The Shed’. 

Bus transport will be available from Bowraville township to and from Spirit of the Rainforest.


Our program will feature a range of experiences including Welcome to Country, cultural walk and talk, interactive activities, yarning circles, forest bathing walk, nature art and creation, bush regeneration and of course yummy food including a Long Lunch in the bush experience catered by Bush Grazing.

We ask that participants commit to all four days, to get the most from this experience.


Uncle Martin Ballangarry, a Gumbaynggirr elder from Bowraville NSW was the first Aboriginal councillor at Nambucca Shire Council and a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia for his work with Indigenous youths in the local community.  Uncle Martin has worked tirelessly on issues regarding Indigenous affairs in the Nambucca Valley for over 30 years.  He leads an Aboriginal dance group and family band called “Jumbaal (Carpet-Snake) Dreaming” and has performed on many stages along the east coast of Australia.

Uncle Michael Jarrett is a Gumbaynggirr Man from Nambucca Heads.  He was born in Macksville and grew up on Bellwood Reserve, where he attended school and grew up with a lot of his relatives.  His passion is Gumbaynggirr language and after studying at the Muurrbay Language Centre and later enrolling in Masters in Indigenous Languages Education, Michael now shares his passion through work opportunities at the Board of Studies, DET, Muurrbay, TAFE, universities and other language organisations.

Caitlin Hockey is a passionate local woman, born and bred on Gumbaynnggiirr country, growing up on Spirit of the Rainforest. She has a deep love for the natural world, as well as sharing and connecting people with wildlife, nature and the good things in life. After years of extensive travels around Australia as a tour guide, Caitlin found herself back on home-ground after the Nambucca Valley bushfires ripped through the property. She has realised the beauty of the Nambucca Valley and since delved deeply into various community/conservation projects and bush regeneration. Caitlin recently launched a picnic tour business ‘Bush Grazing’ aimed at connecting people with local native bush foods, organic valley produce and country. 

Trudi Hayes is a Social Worker by trade and has worked in Community Development over the past 20 years. She currently runs a private practice for Perinatal Women in the Nambucca and Bellinger Valleys, focussing around self compassion and Active Hope Work.  Active Hope also known as the Work that Reconnects is based in deep ecology and systems theory – the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life forces. Trudi is an International Facilitator of Active Hope Work and sits on the National Facilitators Network. She came to the Nambucca Valley 12 years ago and runs a bee sanctuary and education centre with her husband and family. They are placing 100 Native Stingless Bee Hives in 100 Schools across the Mid North Coast. She is passionate about community, the environment and creating connections.

Lucy Van Sambeek has over a decade of experience working in remote communities of the Northern Territory and moved to Bowraville in January 2018.  As an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, Lucy’s passion is helping people recover from trauma and reduce the impact of stress in their lives.  Lucy is interested in exploring passages to health and well-being using the magic of metaphors in storytelling, art and nature.  In her therapeutic work with individuals, groups and organisations, Lucy draws on the best of Western science and knowledge, whilst respecting and engaging with Indigenous perspectives and worldviews.  She is best known as the #nambuccaoutdoorcounsellor, whose personal passions include bushwalking and permaculture.

More information

All enquiries can be directed to Lucy Van Sambeek on 0417 927 657 or


Go to and complete the Registration form.  We will be in touch with further information about transport arrangements, Health and Safety including COVID requirements and what to bring.

Young people under the age of 16 will require written permission from a parent or guardian to participate.


‘Ashes 2 Green’ is a collaboration between the National Parks Association of NSW,
Spirit of the Rainforest, Bush Grazing, …metaphorically speaking and Bloom Wellness and Creation, funded through the Bushfire Recovery initiative by Healthy North Coast.

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