How are Aussie charities helping in the bushfire crisis?
7 January 2020 at 3:21 pm
Australian charities are working tirelessly to help those in need as fires ravage the country
Australia has been gripped by an unprecedented bushfire crisis that has affected more than six million hectares of land and half a billion animals.
As the federal and state governments take drastic action to tackle the crisis, the nation’s charities are doing their bit to help through fundraising campaigns, wildlife rescues and food delivery.
These bushfires – while devastating – have elicited a groundswell of generosity amongst Australians, who have donated millions of dollars to aid community organisations in their relief efforts.
Here’s a look at what some of these charities are doing on the frontline to help heal a wounded nation.
Australian Red Cross
The Red Cross has raised more than $8 million since New Year’s Eve through its Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.
These donations have allowed the charity to deploy 1,285 trained staff and volunteers across disaster-affected communities.
Red Cross emergency teams are welcoming people who have fled the fires at evacuation and recovery centres across the country, and offering emergency grants for those needing help covering everyday expenses.
The charity’s volunteers were recently airlifted to bushfire-ravaged Mallacoota, where they accompanied 1,000 people to safety on a navy ship.
The Salvation Army
The Salvos launched a $3 million disaster fundraising appeal back in November.
The severity of the bushfires has stretched its emergency services teams, which are supporting firefighters in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
In Victoria, the charity is helping communities get food and water, helping deliver 800 boxes of food and 40,000 bottles of water to Bairnsdale, and 1.6 tonnes of water to Mallacoota.
The Salvos have 25 evacuation centres across NSW, with around 1,000 people being supported in Narooma alone.
The crisis has also led the Salvos to begin deploying rotating international and interstate teams to reinforce local volunteers, with a support team from New Zealand arriving in Sydney on the weekend.
Batemans Bay corps officer Captain Ben Knight said he had been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by the community and local businesses.
“It’s just astounding how the community has come together,” Knight said.
“We would be talking amongst our team and saying, ‘What are we going to do for dinner?’ and in walks a business owner saying, ‘I’ve got 500 of this or 500 of that … do you need them?'”
Australia’s charities are working at the heart of our communities today and every day. Hear from the frontline why a financial donation to a registered charity is the best way to help make the most difference to rebuilding lives and communities. https://t.co/LahofzaCdO
— Com Council for Aus (@ComCouncil) January 5, 2020
St Vincent De Paul
The Vinnies Bushfire Appeal has raised more than $2 million, with the charity focused on helping people on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the fires.
Vinnies is using donations to provide food and clothing to affected communities, while also helping people pay unexpected bills and move into crisis accommodation.
Victorian Vinnies president Kevin McMahon said the charity would be with affected communities for the long haul.
“We are active on the ground today and are working alongside other agencies, including the government-nominated first responders (Red Cross and The Salvation Army),” McMahon said.
“In Victoria, we approach our role as second responder, always with a long-term view.
“Rebuilding homes, lives and communities can take many years and, as we have been for more than 165 years, we will continue to be here for Victorians every step of the way.”
Foodbank is leading the charge when it comes to getting food and water to bushfire-hit communities.
This week alone, Foodbank has been able to send 120 pallets of food to Cobargo and Bega, and packed 4,500 hampers for affected regions, after emptying out donations from 1,300 cars, trucks, horse floats and a wheelbarrow.
The response from the public has been astounding, Foodbank CEO Brianna Casey told Seven News.
“We have never experienced anything like this,” Casey said.
Last Sunday, there was a kilometre-long queue of cars filled with food for Foodbank’s Yarraville warehouse, with people waiting more than an hour to donate.
A Facebook fundraiser for wildlife rescue organisation WIRES has raised more than $8 million.
The unprecedented scale of the crisis saw the charity receive over 20,000 calls in December alone, leading volunteers to attend more than 3,300 rescues.
WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor said many animals were already struggling with a lack of water and food because of the drought.
This has been exacerbated by the bushfires, which have destroyed around 3.4 million hectares of habitat in NSW alone.
“Summer is always a frantically busy time for our volunteers but with the fires on the back of the worst drought in decades we are receiving an overwhelming number of rescue calls every day,” Taylor said.
The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal is focused on supporting affected communities in the long term.
The charity does this through its Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund, offering grants supporting local leaders so they are able to help their communities in the 12 to 18 months after the crisis.
The Pratt Foundation recently pledged $1 million to FRRR to help aid the bushfire recovery.
FRRR CEO Natalie Egleton said donations made now will be invested, with the returns used to ensure funds are available when disaster-affected communities are ready for support.
“The effect of the fires will not be the same in any two communities, so it’s critical that when the time is right, local leaders can access funds for whatever is most important to their community,” Egleton said.
GIVIT helps connect those in need with people willing to give, using an online portal allowing people to donate items specifically requested by a registered charity supporting affected communities.
The charity is currently running two specific campaigns supporting bushfire victims in NSW and Queensland.
Major charities like the Salvos are encouraging Australians to donate physical goods through GIVIT, to stop unneeded donations being sent to resource-strapped NFPs.
Save the Children
It is best known for its overseas aid work but Save the Children is also working to help alleviate the bushfire crisis in Australia, launching its own bushfire appeal.
The charity has established Child Friendly Spaces in Wagga Wagga and Bairnsdale to support communities affected by the devastating fires.
In these spaces, trained, qualified early childhood specialists help children play and socialise in a safe and supported environment, while families are linked to other services.
Save The Children CEO Paul Ronalds said these spaces helped children cope by giving them somewhere to be kids again.
“Importantly they can begin to process their experiences, which is critical to helping recovery and building resilience,” Ronalds said.
“We have an amazing group of dedicated staff who bring a fantastic set of skills at a time like this. We’re proud to be able to support children whose lives have been turned upside down by the bushfires.”