Growing new possibilities in the Snowy Valleys

Just down the road from the charred silence of the iconic Sugar Pines Plantation in the Snowy Valleys, is the Pilot Hill Arboretum, in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales.

On 28 December 2020, exactly one year after the Dunns Road Fire wrought havoc for 50 days, the Arbour Festival will begin its own 50 day journey, transforming the Arboretum with artworks, installations and events designed to nurture and celebrate the region.

In this episode, we’ll take you inside the Arbour Festival to explore the role event-based arts initiatives play in the wake of disaster and how the arts can be a powerful conduit for authentic community engagement in the ritual of recovery.

We visit the Arboretum with author, Sulari Gentill, to hear how she and a group of local writers are creating a forest of talking trees – and how the Festival has become a vehicle for a community-focused program that is inclusive of the strong local arts community.

Festival Curator Vanessa Keenan and Eastern Riverina Arts’ Executive Director Tim Kurylowicz talk us through the process of developing Arbour – how they’ve deftly balanced the competing needs of a diverse range of stakeholders; why it’s essential to centre the local community as the first priority; and how the shared focus of an arts festival provides myriad ways to reactivate place-based relationships and bring people together to make meaning of their experience.


  • Sulari Gentill, Arbour Festival artist and author
  • Vanessa Keenan, Arbour Festival Curator / Managing Director, Acorn Creative Group
  • Tim Kurylowicz, Executive Director, Eastern Riverina Arts
  • Charlie Taylor, Operations Manager, Forestry Corp and Deputy Incident Controller, Dunns Road Fire

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Jess O’Callaghan

Produced by Scotia Monkivitch and Jill Robson

Edited and Mixed by: Tiffany Dimmack

How to Listen

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Case study library

Would you like to hear about more arts-based programs supporting and strengthening communities? Our case study library features a range of projects that harness the power of the arts to enhance all stages of disaster planning.