When schoolchildren from Towamba collaborated to create artworks in response to the intensity and destruction of the Black Summer on their valley, they never imagined their artwork might later be hung at Parliament House.
In 2020, after the bushfires, volunteer art teacher Vicki McCredie invited three Towamba Public School pupils for an art day.
The three pupils, Arlie, Moriah and Monique chose to investigate the effects of the fires, taking photos of the area and collecting samples of bark and sticks. With guidance from Vicki, they worked together and painted Joy in the Struggle.
"We decided to go into the bush after the fires and drove up the tarred bit of the Towamba Road. There was a lot burnt there but you could still see life in the forest," Moriah said.
"It wasn't long since the fires but there was already new growth. To me it shows that you can still see life even in hard times.
"The hardest part of the painting was the bark and ash. But it was all fun. There were three of us always bumping into each other and we were always laughing."
The Fireflies project went on to be expanded to the whole of Towamba Public School with the help of teacher Nicci Grant and a grant, with Vicki guiding pupils to respond creatively to their experiences.
There was an exhibition held by Bega Valley Regional Gallery last year, after which Joy in the Struggle was bought, and the very generous purchaser donated it to local MP Kristy McBain to hang in her office in Parliament House.
"The Fireflies Project was such an uplifting and positive experience for the children at Towamba Public School," Ms McBain said.
"The incredibly talented children drew on their local knowledge to document the stunning regrowth they saw around them in the months that followed the devastating fires.
"Thank you to the artists, particularly Vicki, and teachers for running this fantastic project that provided an important outlet for students as they came to terms with our bushfire experience.
"It was great to see these incredible pieces of art on display at an exhibition last year and I am so thankful to the generous donor who kindly donated Joy in the Struggle for me to hang in my office in Parliament House.
"This will remind visitors of what Eden-Monaro went through that summer, and the recovery that is still ongoing. It will also help to keep me focused on ensuring more money flows to those in the region that need it most."
Once lockdown ends and Kristy McBain can return to Parliament House she will take the painting with her and arrange for it to be hung in her office.