The Australian Bushfire Crisis and How You Can Help
I’m sure this wasn’t how most of us imagined the new year would begin. There’s been a lot of talk of the climate crisis over the last 12 months, and of a climate emergency about to unfold, but I don’t think many of us expected it to arrive so soon and with so much intensity. Australia is on fire.
This is what the climate emergency looks like. And it’s not pretty.
10.3 million hectares have reportedly already burned (that’s an area bigger than Scotland), an estimated 1 billion animals killed, 25 people have been killed (including three volunteer firefighters, all with young families) and thousands of homes have been destroyed.
The fires may not have reached the cities, but the smoke has. Sydney and Canberra have been suffering for months. For context: air quality index readings over 200 are considered hazardous to health. Canberra’s air quality was reported to hit 7,700. That’s worse than Beijing and Delhi – notoriously polluted cities.
Remember the Amazon fires of 2019? These fires have burned 46% more land than those. And this is the start of a fire season that may continue for another 3 months.
You’re probably thinking that the government should step in and do something about it. You’d expect them to, right? However our Prime Minister has been lacking in any leadership in these issues.
And in the absence of any empathy, support or leadership from government, it has fallen to us to do something about it. Australia might seem far away, but the planet is our collective home. We might not be powerful, but there are many of us who care, who are angry, and who want to do something positive – turn our anger into action.
I put this together to help you choose how.
Let’s turn our heartache and pain and frustration into action.
Donating to the firefighters
The majority of firefighters in Australia are volunteers. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), which covers 95% of NSW, is the largest volunteer fire service in the world, with more than 70,000 volunteers.
These volunteers are unpaid and they are exhausted. (In most cases they also don’t get paid time off to fight fires and have to use annual leave.)
New South Wales: donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service website (with details for credit card donations, direct deposits and international bank transfers)
The Australian comedian Celeste Barber set up a Facebook fundraising page for the NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donation Fund, and has currently raised $48 million in donations (yes, you read that right: forty-eight million dollars). Facebook fundraisers make it easy for those overseas to donate and this one has been super successful, which is great! Just bear in mind that this fundraiser only covers NSW and there are other fire services (Australia has six states and two territories) that also need support.
South Australia: donate to the South Australia (SA) CFA via cfsfoundation.org.au/donate (donations are made by bank or credit card).
Victoria: The Country Fire Authority has options to donate to either specific CFA brigade of your choice, or to the CFA general public fund via their website: payments can be made by bank transfer, or cheques and money orders can be sent by post.
A Facebook fundraiser has also been set up for the CFA Brigades Donation Fund.
The Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) also has a Volunteer Welfare Fund which makes small grants on a needs basis to CFA volunteers and their families – designed to alleviate stresses that can affect an individual’s ability to continue as a volunteer. These donations can be made by credit card via the GiveNow platform (unlike the CFA donations, these are not tax deductible).
Donating to affected communities
South Australia: The State Emergency Relief Fund directs funds directly to those affected by bushfires in South Australia. It’s possible to donate by electronic funds transfer, credit card or cheque via the SA Bushfire Appeal.
Donations to the Kangaroo Island community can be made directly (by bank transfer only, international donations accepted) to the Kangaroo Island Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund.
Victoria: if you heard the stories of 4,000 people in Mallacoota being evacuated to the beach and rescued by the navy, that was East Gippsland. It’s possible to donate to the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund by bank deposit (via any branch of NAB) or via credit card (Paypal) via gerf.com.au/donate.
The Victorian government has partnered with Bendigo Bank and the Salvation Army to establish the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, with 100% of donated funds going directly to communities in need. It is possible to donate from overseas. Due to a glitch in the system it does not allow overseas addresses, so please use the Foundation address – PO Box 480 BENDIGO VICTORIA 3555 – to override the system and allow your donation to be made. Website: vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal
First Nations Communities: if you would like to donate to fire-affected First Nations communities (including those in Gippsland and the south coast of NSW) , this Fire Relief Fund GoFundMe page has been set up by a Yorta Yorta man. The fundraiser offers culturally sensitive, specific direct support to those affected.
Firesticks Alliance: are delivering an Indigenous led Cultural Fire program to support affected communities and countries to heal after the devastating fire crisis. Currently fundraising via Chuffed (a for-purpose crowdfunding platform.
The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) make 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. Donations can be made to their Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund (you can find the donation page here).
Donating to humanitarian charities
Australian Red Cross: supporting people in evacuation centres and recovery hubs across Australia. Donations: fundraise.redcross.org.au/drr (donations by credit card)
Salvation Army: providing meals to evacuees and frontline responders, and other support. Donations within Australia: salvationarmy.org.au (donations by bank transfer, credit card or Paypal). Donations from overseas: donate.everydayhero.com
Save the Children: are raising funds to help support children affected by the bushfires crisis. If in Australia, it is possible to donate via their website savethechildren.org.au If outside Australia, you can donate via their Facebook Fundraiser.
St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies): providing bushfire relief efforts across all states. Donations here: donate.vinnies.org.au
Donating to wildlife organisations
Adelaide Koala Rescue (SA): helping koalas affected by the fires in South Australia. Donations can be made via their website: akr.org.au
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park (SA): raising funds to help koalas and other wildlife via a GoFundMe page.
Koala Hospital Port Macquarie (NSW): rescuing and rehabilitating koalas injured and made homeless by the bushfires. Their website koalahospital.org.au is struggling to deal with the surge in traffic but donations can also be made via their GoFundMe page.
NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES): provide wildlife education, rescue and care for animals in NSW. Donations can be made via their website wires.org.au or via their Facebook Fundraiser page.
The Rescue Collective (Queensland): based in Brisbane but supporting wildlife organisations throughout the east coast. Their bushfire appeal is raising funds to provide food, water and medication to wildlife in need. Donations via the website mkc.org.au.
Wildlife Victoria: a not-for-profit organisation rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming Victorian wildlife. Donations can be made via their website wildlifevictoria.org.au, and they also have a Facebook Fundraiser page and a GoFundMe page.
WWF Australia: are running an appeal to replant trees to restore habitat for extinction-threatened koalas in NSW and southern Queensland. Donations can be made via their website: donate.wwf.org.au
Donating things that aren’t money
Money is really the best thing you can donate, if you’re able. It means organisations can spend the money on exactly what they need in that moment. If you don’t want to give cash, donations of fuel cards or supermarket vouchers are most useful.
A lot of organisations have been overwhelmed with donations and are now respectfully declining offers due to the issues with storage and logistics with distribution. If you’ve been told second-hand about a request by an organisation for items, please check that the request is still current.
If you’re overseas, please also take into account the length of delivery time between sending your items and them arriving – they may no longer be required by then, so check with the organisation before sending.
If you’re not able to donate money, here are some ways to donate.
Donating accommodation: if you have extra space in NSW, you can offer it for free (to people who’ve been impacted by the fires, or to relief workers) via Airbnb’s Open Homes Disaster Relief (click the link and scroll half way down the page).
Other options include registering with findabed.info , which is supporting people across the east coast; or signing up with helpinghomes.com.au (as well as for humans, “room” can also be for pets and livestock).
Giving blood: the Red Cross’s blood donation service Lifeblood says they will need more donations in the coming weeks. You can find out if you’re eligible and find out how and where to give blood via donateblood.com.au.
Giving ‘stuff’: GIVIT – Goods for Good Causes is coordinating donations of items – you can either browse the list of items required, or submit what you have via the form on their website givit.org.au/give-items
Knitting and sewing pouches for orphaned joeys (baby kangaroos) and other marsupials: Young wombats, kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots, gliders and possums all need pouches. Different animals need different sizes. WIRES has written an excellent guide if you’re keen to contribute in this way.
The Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild has an even more comprehensive guide for stitchers, knitters and crocheters with all kinds of patterns for pouches, wraps and other needs. You can find them on Facebook – the pinned post has their current most needed items.
Writing a Letter
If you’ve been meaning to write to your local politician urging action on climate change, now is that time. If you’re in Australia, great, but even if you are overseas, the climate emergency is a worldwide issue.
In Australia I’m told that the most effective way to communicate is by email rather than post.
First, you need to find your local MP and their contact details – just ask the internet. (In Australia you will have both a State and Federal MP and I would suggest writing to both.)
Next, you’ll need to know what you’re going to say.
Joining a Protest
Protests are happening across Australia on Friday afternoon (January 10th). You might not be a protester. I’m not a protester, either. The September climate strike of 2019 was my second march ever… and my first was in 2001 (for student tuition fees).
I’m not a protester, but I’ll be there. Because it’s important. And I’m furious that it’s come to this. And I want our government to know. I want to be counted.
Hopefully you’ll be there too.
Sydney: 5.30pm Town Hall
Melbourne: 6pm State Library
Brisbane: 5pm King George Square
Canberra: 530pm Garema Place
Adelaide: 5pm Parliament
Perth: 5.30pm Forrest Place
Newcastle: 5.30pm City Hall
Geelong: Little Mallop Street Mall
Woolongong: 6pm Arts Precinct
If there’s one good* thing (* well, sorta) that has come out of the bushfire crisis, it’s the way that people have banded together, supported one another, donated and volunteered and taken action. Whilst I’d love you to share this, what I’d love you to do even more is to do something on this list. Take action, in whatever way you can. No matter how small. We’re in this together.
Now I’d love to hear from you! If there’s any good fundraising drives, interesting ways to donate or volunteer or anything else you think we need to know about, please share. And if you take an action, let us know what you did. As always, please share any other thoughts in the comments!