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September 10 , 2009

Black Saturday at Steels Creek


The Black Saturday bushfires killed 173 people — wreaking a greater human toll than any other fire in Australia’s history. Ten of those victims died in Steels Creek, a small community on Melbourne’s outskirts. It was a beautiful place, which its residents had long treasured and loved. By the evening of 7 February 2009, it felt like a battlefield.

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At exactly 1.30 p.m. on 1 September 1918, the dozen men of Nine Platoon, 21st Australian Infantry Battalion, rose from Elsa Trench and walked across a weedy beet-field toward the German defenders of Mont St Quentin. Within hours, three were dead and five more were wounded, one of whom died six weeks later. The survivors returned from war,…

Prize-winning historian Peter Stanley tells the dramatic stories of this small piece of country on that one terrifying evening — of epic fights to save houses, of escapes, and of deaths. He also tells the tale of a community — of people’s attachments to the valley and to each other — and how, over the weeks and years that followed, they lived with the aftermath of the fire.

The most detailed account of any one community to emerge from the fire, Black Saturday at Steels Creek shows what Black Saturday means not only for Steels Creek, but also for Australia as a whole.

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