*trigger warning – bushfires*
My home is on fire, Australia is currently being destroyed by the worst bushfires anyone has ever seen. Our country is no stranger to extreme weather, after all it is known as “The sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains” – DM. Most that grow up in Australia will experience a bushfire throughout their life, personally I almost lost my home and town 4 years ago, a week before Christmas. But these fires are so different from any in the past.
Since October 2019 over 17 million hectares of land has been destroyed, 1700 homes have been burnt to the ground and worst of all sadly 23 people have lost their lives. Including a brave volunteer firefighter, that was just trying to help protect a town of people. Because the majority of Australia has been in such severe drought, most towns have no chance against the fires. Especially since the New South Wales and Victorian fires have joint forces and created a 600,000 hectare bushfire. Alone the effect of the NSW bushfire has been compared to that of an atomic bomb. A country that is known for it’s beautiful wildlife has lost over 500 million animals and those that survive are literally running to people and firefighters in search of safety. Our beloved Koalas have officially been declared functionally extinct, because their habitats are being destroyed. Illustration credit: @therealsketchykoala
I understand that unless your in Australia it might not feel quite real to you. Like you see the photos and videos of the fires destruction, plus you read all the facts and statistics. And it makes your heart hurt for those affected, similar to the amazon fires. But it isn’t until its you or your friend that almost looses their home, or the people that mean the most to you are in danger and having to evacuate, that it truly hits how horrific these fires are. I know the pain and destruction of the communities, wildlife and land is being felt around Australia right now.
But if the fires have shown me anything though, it would be the true meaning of Aussie spirit. While our government may be in shambles our sense of community definitely isn’t! Everyone around Australia is putting up their hands to help, opening up their homes to those who have lost theirs, helping to evacuate the elderly and disabled, donating food and other supplies, small businesses creating products to raise money for organizations in need, cooking meals for emergency service workers and of course the incredible firefighters and volunteer firefighters that are risking their lives to save others.
And that spirit runs true to the wellbeing of our wildlife, thousands of kilos of sweet potatoes and carrots have been dropped and distributed by helicopters for the wildlife stranded by the fires. Locals are leaving out fresh food an water for the displaced animals, volunteering at wildlife centers and helping with rehabilitation for bushfire victims. Crocheting and sewing mittens for injured koalas as well as pouches and blankets for orphaned joeys and flying foxes. The sense of community not only connects the people but also our wildlife. Many small animals have survived the fires thanks to wombats, who have been seen to be hearding them to safety into their deep burrows.
With all that in mind Australia still has a long road ahead, even once the fires die out it will take time for the communities, towns, wildlife and land to rebuild. Australia NEEDS your help to do that! Its easy to feel useless in these kind of situations but there are so many ways you can make a difference, whether you live in Australia or internationally.
For those that are in the position to be able to donate, the following organizations need all the support they can get to help support those in need.
Consider donating to organizations that are rescuing, helping and rehabilitating our wildlife
Please be careful when donating to any other organizations that aren’t listed above, check that the organization is registered on the ACNC website. And be aware that sadly there are alot of scams going on at the moment, especially posts saying to like and share to donate $5 etc. We want to make sure that the support and awareness is going to the right place.
HELP A FAMILY DIRECTLY
If you want to help a family in need directly. @chelseavvera who is such a shining light and spends her time doing everything to support and build people up. And her beautiful family recently lost their home on New Years Eve. Chelsea and her family have done so much to help our earth over the years, from volunteering with Sea Shepards Australia and travelling around doing beach and river clean ups, plus so much more. They have chosen to stay in their area to help out at their community center and the wildlife rescue center. A family friend of theres was kind enough to set up a go fund me to help them to rebuild and get back on their feet. You can donate here
Photo credit: Chelsea Vera
OTHER WAYS OF DONATING
- If you can’t donate money or goods, why not consider donating blood and plasma? The Red Cross Lifeblood is needing donations more than ever since alot of regular donators are unable to due to the bushfires. Call 13 14 95 to see if you are eligible to donate and find out your closest donation location.
- Donate goods and supplies to @giveitaus, they are an organization that is able to distribute the goods to those in need around the country. Check out their website for the list of what items are currently needed.
- Donate expired or excess medical supplies to wildlife rescue centers, the products are still safe for animals and very much needed right now to treat injuries from the fires.
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
- Share any fundraisers, even if you aren’t in a position to donate yourself. Someone else that sees it may be able to.
- If you have a spare room, granny flat or holiday house why not offer it up on AIRBNB or Find A Bed, to those who have lost their homes or having to evacuate?
- Leave out fresh food and water for wildlife that are displaced due to the fires
- Share any posts or resources on social media that you think could be helpful to those directly effected by the fires
- Shop through @spendwiththem a page that was created by @turiapitt and @graciemcb to help rebuild towns and support businesses affected by the fires, that rely on tourism to survive. The page features and connects businesses in the fire affected towns with customers. And allows people to put money in the pockets of those who need it the most. Not only now but in the months and years to come that it will take for the communities to rebuild. Next time you go to purchase something check to see if a business in need offers that same product. And for anyone with a business in a fire affected town you can email email@example.com with your product pictures and information on how people can purchase your product online or over the phone.
- Open your hearts and offer an ear to listen. More than anything right now the people and families effected need our support. You don’t have to know the ‘right’ thing to say or know how to make it all better for them. Just feeling heard and being able to get stuff off your chest is more impactful than any words ever could be.
Photo credit: google maps
HELP TO REBUILD
- Make a pledge to visit a fire affected town with an empty esky. #GOWITHANEMPTYESKY #ONESMALLACT “I want you to do one simple thing, when the fires have stopped and the towns impacted are safe and trying to regain some sense of ‘normal’. I want you to plan a road trip, go with empty eskies, empty cars and low fuel. Go and spend your money, stay in their hotels, buy from their shops, camp at their camp grounds, buy their gifts, buy their fuel, buy their bread and milk. Beyond rebuilding, they need continued and long term support to get back on their feet and your empty eskies make more of a difference than you could ever imagine”. – Tegan Webber
- Donate to The Foundation For Rural and Regional Renewal, the FRRR makes grants to local not-for-profit groups for community-led projects, that address the most pressing needs that emerge 12-18 months after a disaster event.
For those who have been directly and indirectly affected by these fires my heart truly goes out to you! I wish I could do more but hopefully this helps others to gain the right tools to help even further.