Helping in the Bushfire Crisis: How You Can Assist?
By: Clare Bruce
After seeing the bushfire devastation many have suffered, Australians are now asking how they can help. Below is a list of some of the charities that are welcoming support to help those affected.
Blaze Aid – Helping Rural Families on Damaged Properties
BlazeAid is a volunteer-based organisation that works to support farming families and individuals in rural Australia, after natural disasters like bushfires and floods. The charity was founded after the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009.
Volunteers help to rebuild fences and farm buildings that have been damaged on the properties of primary producers, as well as restoring gardens and machinery, removing fallen trees—and bringing a much-needed lift to the spirits of those suffering great loss.
Volunteers may work in affected areas for days, weeks or even months. Since the organisation began, volunteers have come from all over Australia and the world.
Blaze Aid operates by setting up homebase camps in affected towns, and from there, the work required is co-ordinated by camp co-ordinators each day.
Currently, Blaze Aid has four camps operating in northern NSW – in Ebor, Casino, Ewingar and Drake. Find out more and apply to assist through the Blaze Aid Camps information page.
Offer Your Home to an Evacuee
The homeshare accommodation service, AirBNB, has established a disaster relief service through Airbnb’s Open Homes program, whereby property owners offer free, temporary housing to those who need it. This may include relief workers, neighbours who’ve had to evacuate, and others impacted by disasters like bushfire.
AIrBNB is currently looking for home owners who have housing in NSW and Queensland that they can offer, such as spare rooms or an empty apartment, with comfortable beds, basic amenities and toiletries.
Find out more on the AirBNB website.
Volunteer for Your Local Bushfire Brigade
Often in times of widespread bushfire, many people feel moved to volunteer for a brigade. Bushfire Brigades such as the Rural Fire Service welcome volunteers in a wide range of roles, including:
- Community Education
- Community Engagement
- Operational Logistics Support
- Welfare Support
- Equipment Maintenance
- Youth Development
Training is generally free of charge, insurance is covered, and many qualifications are accredited and transferrable in other contexts. Once trained for a role, your brigade will arrange any personal protective clothing and equipment required. Most services require you to fill out an application form and attend an interview to assess your suitability. Find out more by following the links below.
Yes, I want to volunteer!
Help Injured Animals or Wildlife
If you are in a bushfire affected area and find a native animal that’s been injured or is suffering, the best group to contact is the Wildlife Information and Rescue Service, WIRES. The group is on standby in bushfire season to get to affected animals as soon as the RFS declares an area safe.
If you find a domestic animal such as a dog or cat after a natural disaster, or wish to adopt a rescued animal, contact your local animal shelter. Adopting an animal or volunteering with an animal welfare organisation is also a very practical way to make a difference.
The Salvation Army Emergency Services is responding to the NSW and Queensland bushfires with teams in multiple locations. They are providing meals to evacuees and frontline responders, and will continue to provide whatever support is needed as the situation develops.
Major Topher Holland, head of Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management, said that they’ve never been called on this much for help.
“For our Salvo Emergency Services to be active at this many locations at one time in one region is unprecedented,” he said.
Financial support will be used to deliver crucial help when it’s needed, and to stay for long as it takes to help local communities recover.
The St Vincent de Paul Society is on the ground helping victims in the aftermath of the bushfires and will also be there to help with longer-term recovery. Funds raised in its disaster appeal provide food, clothing, essentials, and financial help, as well as emotional support. Fire victims will also be referred to other support and accommodation services.
The Christian-based charity Samaritan’s Purse has been on the ground in bushfire affected parts of northern NSW since October, responding to emergency need.
They are helping with rubbish removal and property clearing, and are handing out fire recovery kits. The kits contain cleanup tools such as shovels, rakes, mattocks, wrecking bars, steel claw hammers, pliers, and safety wear such as gloves, face masks, safety goggles and more.
The kits are helping families clear their property and find valuable items in the rubble.
You can support the work by donating $300 for a Fire Recovery Kit. Samaritan’s Purse is also asking for prayer for their teams as they continue their recovery work.
Australian Red Cross teams are working in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia to support those affected by fires.
Specialist emergency volunteers are giving immediate first aid and emotional support, working at evacuation centres, and helping people to make contact with loved ones.
The best way to support the work of the Red Cross is by donation. They are not taking new volunteers or donations of goods at the present time.
In NSW, more than 60 Red Cross volunteers are supporting people at 16 evacuation centres across the state, and 16 volunteers are working in Queensland.
Margaret Kiehne, a volunteer at the Glen Innes evacuation centre in New South Wales said the community of Glen Innes was “in total shock”.
“They all thought that they were reasonably prepared and the fire came at such a pace,” she said. “They just couldn’t believe that it travelled as quickly as it did. A lot of them had to leave without anything at all. They turned up at the evacuation centre in only the clothes they stand up in.”
To get involved in future Red Cross emergency responses, visit the Become a volunteer page and fill out the registration form.
Animal Welfare and Rescue Charities
In bushfires animals are often forgotten victims. Animal welfare organisations such as WIRES and the RSPCA, and smaller groups that care for specific animals such as koalas, are always in need of financial support to help them do vital work in caring for our furry friends.
Use the links below to make a donation to your charity of choice.
RSPCA | WIRES | Animal Welfare League | Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
A Note About Donating Clothes & Household Goods
If you have clothes and household goods you wish to donate to charity, the best way is to take them to your local charities such as Vinnies, Salvation Army, Smith Family and Anglicare op-shops.
~ BUT: PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL STORES FIRST! ~
Often charity stores are overwhelmed with donations in times of national emergency, and cannot cope with the volume. Check first to make sure your donation will be a help and not be a hindrance.
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.
About the Author: Clare is a digital journalist for the Broadcast Industry.