OPINION

Unprecedented summer of bushfires show Australia must change

Ten days before Christmas, a back-burn broke containment lines and raced towards my family's herb, flower and companion animal property near Berambing in New South Wales.

At first we were not overly concerned, but within five hours we could see the smoke.

We had planned to stay, but spot fires began appearing in our paddocks.

We could see water bombers from our house and we soon realised there were fires on both sides.

That was when my mother started screaming. In that second, we had two options - stay and risk dying in the fires, or leave knowing we would return to devastation. As we pulled out of the driveway, there were 50 metres of flames right next to our house.

At that moment, I thought I was going to die - a 17-year-old in the car with my cats. I would never achieve everything that I wanted to achieve, never become the person I thought I would be.

We made it to a checkpoint and the police officer waiting there reassured us that we had made the right decision.

However, I was inconsolable. I was convinced that I had left my horse Montey to die and that everything I owned had gone up in flames.

I went to bed that night thinking my beloved horse was dead, blaming myself for leaving him at our farm.

It was not until the next morning that I was flooded with relief when I discovered he had survived.

We lost my father's house at the back of the property and some fences, which has made two paddocks unusable.

I now realise that I was not to blame for leaving my horse, or for the fire that threatened my family's lives.

Our federal government was warned that we faced a catastrophic fire season.

I am disgusted at the lack of leadership that has been shown in this country in a time of crisis. Climate change was one of the driving factors behind Australia's unprecedented fires. That means this country needs to change.

We need to move quickly to powering our homes and businesses with green power, ensuring that communities that rely on the coal industry for their livelihoods are offered new jobs in the renewable energy industry.

Right now, our rural communities are being let down by inaction and delay.

If Australia does not prioritise action on climate change, we will all continue to suffer.

Kelsea Thurgood is an 18-year-old who is part of Macquarie Students for Climate Action