‘I felt useless.’ Turia Pitt opens up about her ‘panic’ amid the bushfire crisis


Having survived a grass fire during a supermarathon in 2011 that left her with burns to 65 per cent of her body, Turia’s fear of fire is deep-seated, and seeing the nation ablaze up and down the South Coast, her town of Ulladulla in the firing line, the panic was palpable.

As she pointed out to her Instagram followers in her January 6 post, Turia knows about fire.

She knows the flames “sound like a thousand road trains coming toward you” and if they catch you “your skin will bubble before your very eyes”.

When you’re facing a fire, she told her followers, it’s only in those last few seconds, when the flames are almost upon you, that you realise you could die.

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Speaking to Stellar magazine, Turia, who is pregnant with her second child, said she was determined not to let what she calls the “panic genie” out of the bottle.

“I didn’t want to flip out completely so I had to focus on keeping my sh*t together, being a mum to Hakavai and trying my best to remain calm and level-headed,” she said of the emotional time she endured.

Turia Pitt is this week’s Stellar cover star.Source:Supplied

Casting her mind back to December, when the fires were at their worst, Turia remembered feeling “panicked and flustered”.

“When the two fires joined up on New Year’s Eve, it was so weird and eerie,” she said.

“I’d packed a go bag and filled the bath with water and was feeling really panicked and flustered. But Michael just said, ‘Darl, we’ll be fine.’ Sometimes I get annoyed at my partner because he’s so calm, but when the sh*t does hit the fan, he’s the best person to have around because he’s so unruffled. Because he was calm, I trusted him.”

Although she was terrified for those who were choosing to stay and defend their properties, Pitt knew she couldn’t judge.

“Having survived (a fire) myself, I feel in those last moments you would regret staying, but I didn’t feel it was my place to go around shaking everyone, saying, ‘You are an idiot,’ because that would be projecting my own experiences onto them.”

Instead, she wrote down what she was feeling and kept the television off.

“It was self-preservation – I wanted to keep the panic genie firmly inside.”

For Turia’s full interview, Stellar Magazine is available inside The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Herald Sun and The Sunday Mail.

For Turia’s full interview, Stellar Magazine is available inside The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Herald Sun and The Sunday Mail.Source:News Corp Australia

She explained that while she was battling her own panic, she wanted to feel useful, and to give practical support to the community that had rallied to support her after she was so badly injured herself.

“I’m scared of fires so I didn’t want to go fighting a fire, I didn’t want to go with Michael in the boat and evacuate people from fire-affected areas and I wasn’t going to use a chainsaw to cut down trees,” she said.

“I had a toddler and I was eight months pregnant, so I felt useless. But I knew I wanted to be of service.”

As she tried to keep a lid on her anxiety, a brainstorming session with her friend Grace McBride prompted an initiative that has not just given her a sense of purpose, but become a lifeline to those who have seen their businesses and incomes stalled.

The pair set up the @spendwiththem Instagram page, which encourages people to buy from businesses that have been impacted by the bushfires.

As with the #GoWithEmptyEskys and @buyfromthebush campaigns, Pitt was keen to get the public helping communities rebuild by putting money in their pockets.

Within an hour the page had 10,000 followers; a week later, it had grown to nearly 200,000.

“I wanted these people to feel heard,” Pitt explained to Stellar from her South Coast home.

“They may not have lost homes or property, but so many of them lost their income at the busiest time of the year.

“Where I live, tourists were evacuated and the place was like a ghost town, so people were worrying about lost income and being able to make their mortgage repayments.”

Turia Pitt created @spendwiththem to held rebuild her local community. Picture: AAP.

Turia Pitt created @spendwiththem to held rebuild her local community. Picture: AAP.Source:News Corp Australia

She said “giving back” ultimately pulled her out of her lowest point.

“It’s how I’ve dealt with a lot of stuff in my life – giving back and helping others makes me feel good, too. All of us like to feel we’re making a difference, and giving back forces you to look outside yourself. People forget how powerful we all are as consumers. When we really need each other, we’re able to galvanise ourselves and step up.”

For the full story, Stellar Magazine is available inside The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Herald Sun and The Sunday Mail.

For more from Stellar, head to www.stellarmag.com.au





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