Nowra's Donna Huntriss has self-published her first picture book titled 'When the Fires Came'.
During the Black Summer bushfires last year, Donna and her family had to 'fly' to Kiama to escape. Her book retells this story through digital illustrations of birds migrating to a tree during the bushfires.
"We got the red alert in Nowra and they said you've got to go," says Donna.
"We got to Kiama and we were lucky to get a hotel room. It was just like chaos. But when you got into the hotel, you heard everyone ask one another if they were a bushfire refugee too.
"During that time, I learnt that everyone has a different story but everyone was there for the exact same reason."
Donna tells this story through birds who are migrating and feel unity as they land in a large tree together and watch on as the fire burns. The tree in the story is inspired by a fig tree Donna noticed at Hindmarsh Park in Kiama.
"I use the birds because usually birds are the first things to send danger, and they fly. But there's an image in the book where they're all sitting in the tree," she says.
"And they're all watching from afar. And everybody was like that, no matter who you were, what color you were or where you came from. Everybody was watching together."
The book also explores how people are still rebuilding and feeling the effects of the bushfires today.
"A lot of people will have their own different story of what the bushfires were like. And it's still going, people are still rebuilding," she says.
"Not even just for people at the coast, this memory is now ingrained into the psyche and there are themes with how people are dealing with the aftermath."
Donna says she wrote the book to remember this part of the Shoalhaven's history, and for tourists who pass by the gallery.
"I also thought for tourists, they'll be able to take away and learn about what the experience was like for the locals," she says.
As an independent publisher and self-taught creative, Donna digitally illustrated each page herself. She's thrilled to have her book printed on glossy pages and stocked at the Shoalhaven Regional Art Gallery.
You can find 'When the Fires Came' here: https://www.blurb.com/b/10618180-when-the-fires-came