Park Scholar Raises Awareness of Australian Bushfires

By Grace Collins ’23, February 6, 2020
Jordan Brown ’22 published a series of photographs to shed light on the intensity of the fires ravaging Australia.

Since last June, bushfires have raged throughout Australia, destroying millions of acres of land, consuming buildings and taking dozens of lives. The devastation is occurring nearly 10,000 miles away from the Ithaca College campus, but one student, Park Scholar Jordan Brown ’22, a film, photography and visual arts major, became immersed in the story.

Brown has spent the past several months at the University of South Wales in Sydney as part of a study abroad opportunity. The timing of his travel coincided with the peak of the fires, and he quickly realized he had the chance to raise awareness about the destruction — with his camera.

“I figured I could make an impact by donating or volunteering at an animal shelter, or, I could help bring awareness to what is truly going on first hand,” he said. “I think that creators can have a huge impact by using their medium to spread messages and ideas in their work.”

“Park Scholars all have the same goal in mind: strengthening our communities. Right now, my community is Sydney.”

Jordan Brown ’22

Making that decision was the easy part. The real challenge was finding a way to get to the sites of the fires to take the pictures. He decided to take a train to Voyager Point, a small suburb in West Sydney, where he took photos of the aftermath of a recently extinguished fire.

Later, along with fellow IC student Grace George ‘22, a cinema and photography major, Brown photographed a rally featuring tens of thousands of people protesting the Australian government’s inaction surrounding the fires.

That following weekend, Brown and George went to the Blue Mountains to document more of the impact the fires are having on the ecosystem of the continent.

“The smoke was so dense, there were points when you could hardly see 10 feet in front of you,” Brown said. “This made it difficult to take decent photos, because everything looked like a white screen.”

The sophomore then connected with his hometown radio station, WITF of Harrisburg, Penn., participating in an interview and publishing photos on the station website.

“I think the situation is important because not only [are the fires] destroying the land in Australia and displacing people and wildlife here, the smoke is impacting the air that we all breathe,” he said. “It’s an issue about climate, and climate impacts us all.”

Brown said this project is emblematic of the mission of the Park Scholar Program, in which students are not only expected to excel academically, but to serve their communities and be ethical media makers.

“The program teaches you to recognize a problem and think, ‘how can I help?’ which is exactly what I did and what I thought,” he said. “Park Scholars all have the same goal in mind: strengthening our communities. Right now, my community is Sydney, and I felt that the best way for me to help out the community was to bring awareness to what was going on.”