When journalist Ciara Bastow would drive every weekend along the Bells Line of Road at Lithgow, the blackened ruins left by Australia's Black Summer were starkly laid out before her eyes.
As confronting as this was, Ciara's journalistic instincts kicked in as the weeks turned in to months, and the ruined landscape remained unchanged.
"I thought, this community needs help," Ciara said.
"You could see the frames of houses on the ground and that was six months after the fires. I wondered why houses weren't being rebuilt - why weren't these people getting help? I wanted at least to get local government to stand up for them."
Her series, Beyond the Flames, has earned her a nomination in the prestigious Kennedy Awards in the category of Outstanding Regional Newspaper Journalism.
As a result of her advocacy, the local council appointed a Community Recovery Officer to seek funding and assistance for the people in that community.
Ciara may be only in the early years of her career, but she has proved she is more than equal to difficult stories such as those left in the wake of the fires.
"It was hard at times doing the interviews. It was emotional," she said.
"Every person I spoke to broke down and cried during the interview. It was heartbreaking but so inspiring that even though they had lost everything they still wanted to stay in the area and rebuild.
"After the first interview, I said to editor Ben Palmer, this can't be just one story. The more people I spoke to the more I could see that everyone's experience of the fires was unique."
Ciara said she was shocked and taken aback when she learned of her award nomination, and may have even shed a "little tear" herself.
"I called mum and dad straight away. I'm really excited because I know I was up against people who are very talented and have been in this career for many, many years."
Ciara joins a rollcall of Australian Community Media journalists nominated for the 2021 Outstanding Regional Newspaper Journalism category, including the Illawarra Mercury's Ashleigh Tullis and the Naracoorte Herald's Elisabeth Champion.
Despite the industry honour, Ciara says for now she is proud to be telling the stories of people in her town of Lithgow.
"There's a real sense of community in Lithgow, more than I've felt in other places I've lived," she said.
"When you want to talk to people they just happily welcome you in, and when big things happen, they really rally around.
"For me, telling this story was important, just to be able to show the wider world that this town needed help, and I think it meant a lot to everyone in this community."