Horror bushfires that ripped through the landscape and lapped at weatherboard homes, sometimes swallowing them whole, have had a traumatic impact on Australians.
But it's the impact on the traditional owners of the land in northern NSW that are lesser known, and University of New England researcher Kim Usher has a $624,000 federal government grant to find out.
"Aboriginal people have a deep connection to the land, so we are expecting the impacts of the fires will have had a great emotional and social impact in this area," she said.
The research will take a unique approach, first with a survey of Aboriginal communities and then with small workshops to use an arts-based storytelling approach to healing.
An Aboriginal steering committee and the the Walhallow Aboriginal Health Corporation will help drive the direction of the research and how to engage with communities in a way that's culturally appropriate.
If the method works, it's a model that could be rolled out nation-wide to help deal with the bushfire trauma.
A lot of Ms Usher's work has focused on mental health care following disasters like earthquakes and cyclones but to date there has been little work done on how Aboriginal people respond to arts-based healing.
Aboriginal people are more likely to live in areas without easy access to mental health care and some a reluctant to seek care because of racism in the system, she said.
"They have a unique connection to the land which has been theirs for thousands of years," she said.
"We believe the bushfires will have caused a greater impact and trauma for them.
The project is expected to take three years and at the moment researchers are in the ethics phase.
The team put in an application for a share of the $5 million Medical Research Future Fund grants that have to be spent specifically on bushfire research.
Some projects were physiological, to look at the impacts of bushfire smoke on health whereas others focused on the mental health impact.
The team hopes to start soon, Ms Usher said.
"We have a strong team of researchers and I think that's why we did so well and why we have been funded," she said.
"Working with Aboriginal people needs to be conducted in a respectful way, the engagement is an important part and a time-consuming part of the research but it is necessary."