Mallacoota Time

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March 3, 2021
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Mallacoota Time

The lost summer 2020

by Milena Cifali

Rising from the ashes of the Mallacoota New Years Eve Bushfires, a poignant and timely book by Milena Cifali. Highly regarded creative talent Milena Cifali is an award winning singer-songwriter and poet, who, along with her partner Jim Horvath, lost her home, instruments and beloved parrots in the Mallacoota bushfires on New Year’s Eve 2019. Out of adversity, Milena has written a heartfelt book, sharing her personal journey towards recovery, against the larger backdrop of an unprecedented bushfire season and the coronavirus pandemic.

The book showcases Milena’s considerable talents of writing, poetry, lyrics, and photography to create a stirring and timely work. At its heart is the search for home and its aim to connect with Australia’s fire ravaged communities and to provide solace, facilitating healing for all those suffering loss amongst these communities.

The statistics of Australia’s 2020 summer bushfires tell an awful story. Around 19 million hectares burnt, at least 34 people killed, nearly 2,800 homes destroyed, bird and animal deaths in the billions. But to truly comprehend the scale of devastation we need the personal stories behind these numbers.

That’s what musician, song writer and poet, Milena Cifali, gives us in this heartfelt, illuminating and compelling book.

On New Year’s Eve 2019, the little red cedar cottage in coastal Mallacoota which Milena and her partner, Jim Horvath, called home was one of the many razed. Their beloved menagerie of parrots fell victim, many of their precious musical instruments were destroyed. Milena “cracked into a million pieces”. The world no longer made sense.

Like a bushfire, this multi-layered story swirls in unanticipated directions: devastation, numbing loss, irritation, uncertainty, hope, recovery, wonder at unexpected acts of kindness. Milena writes of returning to the “simple yet powerful realisation: that people are kind. I am awed.”

Follow Milena on Instagram @mallacootatimethebook ( like her Facebook page ( for regular updates.


Milena’s memoir 'Mallacoota Time' is a telling narrative that gives a rare insight to others who might endure similar loss and trauma. Its lyric use of language adds a sensitivity to the many personal moments that are normally private and unspoken. These words capture a world that can help others who have had to confront the unimaginable devastation that bushfires bring. 

Alexander McFarlane

AOProfessor of PsychiatryThe University of Adelaide,SA.MB BS (Hons), MD, FRANZCP, Dip Psychotherapy


At the heart of the story is the idea of home. Not four walls, but what they contain: music, friends, love, laughter; the gifts which “amplify our lives”, and which statistics can never convey.

Peter Rodgers, Prize-winning journalist and author


Amidst the background of the recent fires that devastated Australia’s east coast, and then the social dislocation of the Corona virus, Milena Cifali, having lost her home to the fire in Mallacoota has created a meditation on life, loss, and renewal. This is a poignant account of the thoughts and emotions that flare up and affect the soul when ones home has been taken away.

All through this moving account is a yearning for ‘home’ and a search for connection, and always the restorative power of music and story telling.

Jim Sakkas, author and winner Vogel literary prize 1987 (also a Mallacoota resident)


This book is a work of art, in so many ways and on so many levels. Milena Cifali bravely traces the losses of the summer of 2020 in a deeply personal account that resonates across time and space.

Geographically located in a world that has changed forever, this book is a timely reminder that the work of mourning is also the work of restoration, and there is much work ahead of us. Her courage and resilience pave the way.

Carolyn Minchin


Milena Cifali is no stranger to writing she has written many poems and songs – but this time she began the arduous labour of analysing her deepest hurts, fears and memories, our common needs and aspirations, ordering it all into chapters, and has in a very few short months created a wonderful book – Mallacoota Time. Sadly, many Australians have suffered huge losses through bushfires, but rarely does the trauma work itself out in such a creative way. Milena’s memoir and philosophical musings, illustrated with many photographs, has created a go-to book, a must-read for all Australians. Surely, surely, we will now as a nation begin to work towards lessening the devastating impacts of bushfires by committing to tackling climate change??....

Judith Clingan AM, Canberra

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Available in Paperback (ISBN: 978-0-6488545-2-4) through the following booksellers:

Available in Hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-6488545-6-2) through the following booksellers:

Available in Audiobook (ISBN: 978-1-6621834-9-2) through the following booksellers: