Approximately 35 per cent of the Aboriginal community of Lake Tyers has chosen to stay on Country as the East Gippsland bushfires continue to rage only 20 kilometres away.
Traditional Owner Kerry Tregonning said that although the past few days have been scary, for now they are safe, but the community will remain on high alert until at least Friday.
“We’re a small community of 250 Aboriginal people, 46 houses out there. There’s roughly 35 community [members] who have stayed,” Ms Tregonning told NITV News on Tuesday.
“Most of them were born out here, they have no transport, some of them are hooked up to oxygen, there’s a lot of little things.”
Ms Tregonning said she has stayed to care for her elderly father, who didn’t want to leave his country, and has put her own emergency plan in place.
“My father was born out here. He’s an old man. He’s 70 something and he’s had five bypasses. He’s currently dealing with cancer and he didn’t want to leave,” Ms Tregonning said.
“We live down by the river and we do have a lot of bush around, but we have a lake just there, we have a boat, we’re quite young and fit.”
As numerous photos emerged online on Tuesday of beaches back-dropped by a bright red sky, Ms Tregonning described what it was like to be so close to the fire front on Monday night.
“It was just bright, dark red with some black smoke and then it went right up into the sky,” Ms Tregonning said.
“If I was to stand and tilt my head to 180 degrees I would still be looking at the red, dark sky. Hot leaves were falling. There was a lot of smoke around. We've inhaled smoke for about two days.”
Despite the smoke, there have been no directly related health issues reported in the community.
“It’s still isolated and there’s still a few family members that we know who are close and have had their houses burnt to the ground and all their Christmas stuff taken,” Ms Tregonning said.
While there have been a few holes in the community’s emergency plan, Ms Tregonning said the community is safe for now, and the plan will be reviewed when the fires are over.