THE FIRE: Youngest victims recount raw memories
A TSUNAMI of fire, lava erupting from a volcano, a work of art. This is how the children of Nymboida described what they saw the night their homes were ravaged by an unstoppable fire storm four months ago.
The memories Nymboida Public School students won't forget were captured in a raw documentary film depicting what happened the night of November 8.
"My dad came in screaming 'get out of the house, grab your PJs, grab a drink bottle and just get out of the house'," Reign Browning says staring down the barrel of the camera.
'The Fire' a 12-minute film named best documentary at the Big River Public Schools Film Festival is an unnerving and candid account from the children, in a way even their parents hadn't heard before.
The idea came from teacher Louise Hankinson and principal Renee Cooper after the school's forced closure meant the students' initial entry into the festival couldn't be completed on time, and the disaster they found themselves in provided an opportunity.
"I sat the seniors down first and they just talked. I've got hours and hours of footage," Ms Hankinson said.
"I was a little bit concerned; I didn't want to upset the kids at all. The way they just spoke I thought this must be cathartic for them in some way.
"They must have enjoyed the experience of just letting it out.
"Some of the parents said they hadn't heard their children speaking that way about it before."
Among the students was nine-year-old Miwa Jongen-Tsey, who evacuated the night of the fire and was not shocked to hear her home was no longer standing days later.
Four months on she is still finding her feet in the Tiny House she and her mother won in a competition.
"I live in the bush surrounded by mud bricks and trees. I'm in burnt bush and there's this fancy little white house. It doesn't fit me because I've never lived in a house like that," she said.
In the days after disaster unfolded Miwa was glad to have her friends for company, often staying the night.
"Me and Ahlia stayed up half the night, then all the night the next night. It helped I could talk to someone about it that wasn't my parents," Miwa said.
Miwa returned from a four-week holiday just days ago, to her home almost as it was before the fire ripped through, torrential rain no doubt accelerating the regeneration process as the blackened remains of trees sprout vibrant green sprigs.
"It's back how it was," Miwa said.
"It's only different because I don't have my house."
"The weirdest thing about the fires for me is that I'd heard about the fires before. I felt sorry for people who had died and lost their homes, but I never thought it would happen to me.
"I thought I would be safe at home."
Cody Bale initially struggled seeing his reality splashed across media, seemingly inescapable.
The 11-year-old helped his family defend his property that night, which is luckily still standing.
"It was everywhere, it was on social media. It was on Snapchat. It was quite difficult," Cody said.
Telling his story for the documentary wasn't an easy thing for him to do, Cody said, who felt the experience belonged to his community, but talking about it could go some way in explaining it to others.
"It was good for them to know the pain that we were in," he said.
The students have watched the final product several times, quietly drinking in their peers stories, Ms Hankinson said.
As the community continue to rebuild every aspect of their lives from fences and properties to tackling the psychological toll, Ms Hankinson said the students have settled back into a new school year.
"All back on track really.
"For most of the kids there's probably not too much of a lingering effect.
"There's still lots happening in the community, but for most of our kids, they're good."