Carol Matthews OAM

Bushfire survivor and activist

2019 VIC Local Hero

On 7 February 2009 Carol, Dave and Ellie Matthews experienced an unimaginable tragedy – the death of their 22-year-old son Sam, and the destruction of their home in the Black Saturday bushfires.

Despite her considerable pain, Carol put her grief on ‘hold’ to advocate for emotional preparedness to be included in bushfire planning and preparation. She has been pivotal in developing a ‘multi-sensory bus’ to help people understand the effect that high arousal during the chaos of a fire will have on decision making.

Carol has attended many meetings with Victorian Government representatives and supported other community members recovering from the trauma of the bushfire.

Carol was also the lead litigant in the class action against the electricity distributor that caused the fire, securing $500 million for survivors – the largest class action settlement in Australian history. In the face of her own personal loss, she displayed enormous courage to secure a better outcome for bushfire victims.