A Fire Inside

The Power of the Human Help Reflex


Documenting the 2019-2020 bushfires, this is a compelling account of one of Australia’s most challenging times, revealing the power and resilience of the human spirit and a nation galvanised to help.


ISBN: 9781760762421 Category:

Matthew Abbott


If this book is about the events of Australia’s Black Summer bush fires, it is also about the nature and resilience of the Australian people. The devastation was there for all to see. What was harder to capture was the way every Australian responded. A nation forged by fire and defined by help.

World Press Photo-award-winning photojournalist Matthew Abbott spent months on location capturing the catastrophic events as they unfolded firsthand, and his compelling images made headlines around the world. His photographs have etched themselves into our collective memory, as have the stories behind them: first-person accounts from the people on the ground – firefighters and wildlife rescuers, bystanders who became upstanders, doing what they could to help – reveal a nation galvanised to help.

These accounts, along with insights from anthropologists and those who observe human behaviour, allow us to begin to understand why humans put themselves in danger to help others and what it means to be human.

Additional information

Weight 1443 g
Dimensions 22.8 x 28.7 cm
Publisher name Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd
Publication date 20 September 2021
Number of pages
Format Hardback
Contributors Foreword by Shane Fitzsimmons
Dimensions 22.8 x 28.7 cm
Weight 1443 g


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Matthew Abbott is a documentary photographer based in Sydney who covers Australian and Asia-Pacific social and environmental stories. He is a member of the Oculi Collective, Australia's leading co-operative of visual storytellers, and his work focusses on capturing intimate moments that often go unseen - he believes storytelling is at its most effective and powerful when it is based on a close connection to the subjects and an understanding of the stories behind the lens.

Abbott's work has been exhibited extensively internationally, and he is a regular contributor to the New York Times and National Geographic and many other leading media outlets. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Nikon-Walkley Australian Daily Life Award 2018 and 2019, the Nikon-Walkley Press Photographer of the Year 2020 and was awarded first place in the inaugural Rust Belt Biennial 2019. His series documenting the 2019-20 bushfires placed second in the 2020 World Press Photo Contest, and his image of a kangaroo rushing past a burning house won the Deadline Club Award for Spot News 2020. The series is also a finalist for the prestigious Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2021.

Shane Fitzsimmons is the inaugural Commissioner for Resilience NSW and Deputy Secretary of Emergency Management with the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. This appointment followed a career of over thirty-five years with the NSW Rural Fire Service, serving as both a volunteer and salaried member. Formerly Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, Fitzsimmons led the state-wide response to the 2019-20 bushfires with a 74,000-strong crew of mostly volunteers. He was subsequently named 2021 NSW Australian of the Year.