We’ve all seen the devastation felt in our communities – and sadly there’s no great relief being felt with a couple of months still to go until ‘fire season’ is over.
It can be tricky to comprehend the enormity of what’s happened, and what’s currently happening, to our country as the figures are staggering:
- 25.5 million acres burned
- Half a billion animals lost
- People and towns lost
- 2,000+ homes destroyed
- A prolonged state of emergencies across NSW and VIC
- “Very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality levels in parts of New South Wales, Victoria and Australia Capital Territory
- Haze from the fires has blown across to New Zealand and reached South America last week
- Thousands displaced, forced to evacuate their homes. Though many have stayed, as they have no other option.
It’s hard not to feel helpless and overwhelmed, wondering what you can do to help – especially if you’re too far away to physically go and help the impacted communities, and perhaps money is tight or you’ve already donated and want to do more.
Our customers, team, friends and family have been feeling the same way – wanting to take steps to help, but unsure what options there were out there.
So our team decided to respond and pull together an infographic of well-known, and not so obvious, actions we can all take to support the bushfire relief effort and help impacted communities:
Donate for our communities
We’ve seen some wonderful charities and organisations who are on the ground supporting communities in need:
- Support your local Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigade and all the volunteer firefighters who are fighting on the frontline to contain fires. You can donate by credit card, bank deposit or cheque here.
- Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief & Recovery are supporting bushfire impacted communities across New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia with specialist emergency volunteers. They are working at evacuation centres, helping people to get in touch with their loved ones and providing much needed psychological first aid.
- Salvation Army Emergency Services teams have been deployed to bushfire regions across the impacted states. Crews will be working to offer immediate assistance like food and shelter, help reach isolated families and provide essential items, as well as provide ongoing care. You can donate to the Salvos' Emergency and Disaster Appeal here.
- St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland has a number of volunteers on the providing support in evacuation centres, primarily in the recovery phase once the initial emergency is over, helping communities to rebuild. You can donate directly at vinnies.org.au or by phoning 13 18 12.
Some of the other great initiatives we’ve come across, however, may not be so well known.
- You can support the Fire affected First Nations Communities fundraiser which has been initiated and maintained by a Yorta Yorta, First Nations man, Neil Morris. He is a community rights and empowerment advocate for fellow First Nations peoples and the aim of this fundraiser is to offer a culturally sensitive, specific direct support to some of those communities with critical costs.
- There’s the opportunity to support the Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation as they continue providing Indigenous leadership, advocacy and action to protect Country through cultural fire and land management practices. Firesticks acknowledges Country and Traditional Custodians and serves under their authority.
Donate for our wildlife
Wildlife has felt the full force of these fires across multiple states. Donations to organisations rescuing and rehabilitating injured wildlife are invaluable to keep them operational and allow them to continue their work:
- WIRES need urgent assistance to help - even before the current disaster, large areas of Northern NSW and South East Queensland were experiencing a severe flying-fox starvation and dehydration event due to drought conditions and putting a strain on their resources. Koalas and Grey-Headed Flying-foxes are already listed as vulnerable to extinction, the additional loss of life through emergencies like this is even more devastating. You can donate to their emergency fund here.
- The Rescue Collective aims to provide a transparent & productive community environment in which rescues, volunteers and supporters can band together to make a greater impact on the area of Animal Welfare in Australia. Through the collection of donations and networking of resources, they aim to assist & work with all facets of animal rescue. They are accepting donations via The Rescue Collective and Act, Rescue & Foster’s (TRC ARF’s) partner fund program and you can donate here.
- Koalas in care have a tiny all-volunteer team that provides 24-hrs koala rescue service, help to restore koala habitats and, once recovered, return koalas to the wild – donations will help keep them running.
- Vets for compassion is a small organisation, also run entirely by volunteers who work with communities to improve animal welfare in Australia. They have provided emergency response during natural disasters through the provision of highly-trained vets and vet professionals to help affected wildlife, farm and companion animals. The best kind of support for this team right now is financial donations – to allow them to continue treating these animals.
- Wild2Free Kangaroo Sanctuary is yet another small all-volunteer team that operates as an animal shelter rehabilitating and releasing orphaned joey kangaroo joeys. The shelter was sadly destroyed during the fires, but the team remains and uses tents to treat injured animals – donations are much needed to keep them operational.
- Humane Society International has now deployed a disaster response team to Kangaroo Island to assist with rescue and recovery efforts in the region. HSI is a leader in global disaster response, deploying all over the world in times of need. They have been helping incredible wildlife carers facing this devastating tragedy with the launch of their Wildlife Emergency Response Fund in November and have already provided emergency truckloads of water and supplementary feed for rescued wombats, kangaroos and flying foxes across Australia, and are funding the building of additional rehabilitation enclosures for koalas and other wildlife. You can donate to their fund here.
- Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is an animal welfare, scientific research and education facility who have been helping conduct search and rescue exercises in the hope of finding surviving koalas. Any found will be brought into the hospital for assessment and treatment. You can donate via their Go Fund Me page to support their efforts.
Below is a range of other places which would welcome donations:
- WILVOS (Wildlife Volunteers Association Inc.)
- Granite Belt Wildlife Carers Inc
- Koala Rescue QLD
- RSPCA QLD
- Friends of the Koala
- Sugarshine Farm Sanctuary
What else are communities needing to recover and rebuild
- The Foodbank Bushfire Emergency Relief Appeal is currently accepting donations of non-perishable food and other essential grocery items at all of their Australian warehouses. Items in high demand:
- Bottled water
- UHT milk
- Breakfast cereals
- Good quality tinned foods and meals (with ring pulls)
- Pasta, rice and noodles
- Grab-and-go foods like muesli bars
- Pet food
They ask to avoid donating the following:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Bedding or clothing (new or used)
For more information on how and where to donate, click here.
- Based on the Central Coast of NSW and getting back-to-school supplies for the kids? Grab some extra supplies and gift backpacks full of much-needed school supplies to Bring Back Hope campaign.
- If you are based in Victoria or are a corporate business, Paul West is coordinating a public response to impacted rural communities of East Gippsland, the Snowy Mountains and the NSW South Coast.
Please email Paul directly at email@example.com if you can help with any of the following:
- Convoys of food
- Drinking water
- Medical help or psychological help
- If you have any military or emergency services experience
- If you are a doctor or psychologist
- If you have an MR/HR or SEMI license, or
- You have any experience in disaster relief coordination
- Thread Together is a charity that sources new and excess clothing from fashion retailers before making them available to communities in need. The organisation is looking for distribution partners on the ground in fire zones to help receive clothing and distribute it to residents. If your company can assist with handing out items, please contact the Thread Together office on 1300 003 789 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Givit is coordinating donations and goods for communities affected by the fires. You can also donate to their bushfire appeal here
Donate resources for wildlife
- The Rescue collective would welcome donations of any of the following items to support their cause:
- Hartmans fluids
- Baxter fluids
- Biolac formulas
- Fruit baby food squeeze packs (note: preservative-free brands, no custard and cinnamon please)
- Wombaroo impact
- Fuel, Supermarket &/or online pet store vouchers
- Vitamin E oil (note: not cream)
- Puppy pads
- Animal wound gels & sprays
- Animal feeding bottles & teats
- Hand sanitisers
- Wildcare Australia is also asking for donations for nest boxes, to help house wildlife affected by the fires.
- With the severe drought conditions and intensifying bushfires, the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital has seen around a 20% increase in admissions from in and around the fire zones. The hospital's vital work of treating, rehabilitating and releasing sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife means the hospital has grown to be one of the busiest wildlife hospitals in the world. They currently have a hospital wishlist and items donated from this list make an immediate difference to the animals that are admitted - you can find the wish list here.
Got a spare bed?
- Findabed.info helps to connect those who have spare beds with those who have been displaced (including their animals)– you can register your locations and how many beds you have available here. Findabed.info will then match you those who are in need in your area and put you in touch.
Volunteer your time
Not everyone is able to donate cash. Instead, look to donate your time!
- If you are in QLD, you can donate your time and support to wildlife rescue efforts, head here to find out more.
- BlazeAid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters, such as fires and floods. volunteers work in a disaster-affected area for many months, not only helping individuals and families but also helping rebuild the local communities. You can find out how you can help here.
- No one wants to admit things are tough, and farmers are some of the proudest people in Australia. But sometimes they need our help, especially before it’s too late. Aussie Helpers stays in touch with 100’s of farming families to ensure their wellbeing and survival through good and bad times – you can find out more here.
- Rural Aid was founded in 2015 to provide a holistic support program to rural Australia. They have a number of programs designed with rebuilding and repairing in mind. These include the Farm Rescue and Farm Army programs which see thousands of volunteers give their time to support rural communities, the Gift of Music helping to bring the joy of music to the bush, and counsellors helping reduce stress, domestic violence, and suicide in rural communities.
- Bermagui based hospitality business @eastwoodsbermagui in NSW has been turned into a disaster relief kitchen with the aid of the international not-for-profit, World Central Kitchens. They are currently preparing between 500-1,000 meals a day to provide to the bushfire affected residents from Mogo - Mallacoota. Kelly and the team are desperate for volunteers, please call (02) 6493 5282 if you can help.
- Tradies for fire-affected communities was born as a place for tradies of all disciplines around the country, to put their hand up and donate their time and skills to those affected by these devastating bushfires. TFFAC is committed to mobilising this group effectively, efficiently, and safely. Help comes in many forms, and their members have already made such a difference. From tool drops to hay runs, to safe spaces for incredibly traumatised children this group is made up of a beautiful bunch of legends.
Use your voice
Sign petitions! Change.org has several relevant petitions running currently – one to call on the Prime Minister to meet immediately with emergency leaders, including Greg Mullins, another one calling on the Prime Minister to declare a climate emergency and this one which calls upon the Government to stop selling off Australian water.
Get vocal on social! Use the hashtag #AttnScottMorrison and voice your concerns and feelings about what’s happening.
Contact your local MP
Write to, or email, your local MP and ask for urgent and ongoing action on bushfire relief and climate action.
Unsure what to say?
Share your thoughts on the fact that bushfire seasons are lengthening and predicted to increase in frequency and intensity – you can quote Greg Mullins, the former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner. He wrote a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, where he outlines the "established long-term trend driven by a warming, drying climate" which is creating longer, more intense, more dangerous bushfire seasons.
You can also go to the Australian Conservation Foundation efforts here that provide the tools to do this easily by going to https://www.acf.org.au/speak_out_bushfires
If you’re still a bit stuck, @annarose_richards has created a template letter which you can easily download and simply fill in the blanks before sending to your local government. Download the letter here!
Planting trees help with the regeneration of areas which have been devastated by bushfires, restoring wildlife habitat. It’s also a wonderful way to protect our native species and capture carbon at the same time.
Search for local tree planting days in your area if you’d like to lend a hand directly or buy some natives to add to your own garden.
If you’re pushed for time &/or would like to donate as well – here are some options:
- One-tree planted plants various types of Australian native trees and companion plants, depending on the specific needs of each section of habitat being restored. Previous efforts had been focused on restoring Tasmania’s native forests, but efforts have now been pivoted towards areas of New South Wales and Australia that have been impacted by the bushfires.
- Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund carefully selects native species that support natural ecosystems and wildlife, creating habitats that are more resilient to Australia’s climate. Landscape restoration and broad-scale native tree planting are essential to prevent Australia from losing large portions of its biologically and evolutionarily unique fauna and flora. A $3.75 donation will plant one native tree, or shrub, and will contribute to the management and monitoring of their planting projects.
- Koalas feed on a variety of eucalypts, the most common varieties being Tallowood, Swamp Mahogany and Forest Red Gum. A $15 donation will enable the Koala Hospital to plant one food tree – helping to nourish koalas in the future, and reduce Australia’s carbon footprint at the same time!
- Rainforest Rescue’s Plant a Rainforest project replants previously cleared areas of rainforest and establishes habitat for the plants and animals’ endemic to that specific ecosystem. This protects the precious biodiversity including thousands of wildlife species.
- You can either choose to donate to protect the Daintree, $25 buys back and protect five square metres of Daintree lowlands rainforest, or donate to plant trees in the previously cleared rainforest. Working in partnership with local communities, Rainforest Rescue plant over 250 different rainforest tree species to create and foster a complex ecosystem capable of providing vital habitat for the many species of plants, animals and insects that call the rainforest home.
Spend money with affected communities
This can be a huge one for local communities. There are lots of great initiatives which can help funnel funds directly to impacted communities, allowing you to purchase products and services online directly from retailers in these communities.
Some have been around before the fires, and some have been created as a direct response – here are the ones we’ve found:
- Go Country for Christmas
Animal rescue centres across NSW, VIC & QLD need the following items:
- Sewers: Joey pouches, hanging joey pouches, bat wraps, quilts and blankets
- Crocheters: Bird nests, blankets, joey pouch outers and animal jumpers
- Knitters: Blankets, joey pouch outers and animal jumpers
Make conscious choices
This is a great opportunity to look at what your money is supporting, beyond day-to-day purchases. Choices such as who you bank with or what projects your Superannuation fund investments are supporting can make a significant difference. Look for companies who align with your personal ethics and who lends or invests in industries that advance social and environmental causes, over more questionable industries.
Do your research – talk to friends and family on their experiences, look at comparison websites and talk to potential new providers directly to get the full picture of what’s on offer.
General bushfire information
It’s also worth reading this Bushfire Factsheet for Wildlife from WIRES containing general advice and tips for helping wildlife during bushfires.
NSW Business Chambers have a dedicated page capturing key contact points and information about actions if you’re under threat or have been impacted by the bushfires – this page also contains links of information relevant to those based in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
If climate change and climate impact are only coming on to your radar, it can be quite confusing and a bit over overwhelming. Throughout the bushfire crisis there has been multiple false reports and misleading news stories spread, so be smart about where you are getting your information.
It does pay to check sources and fact check what you come across - read, watch documentaries and spark up conversations. If you’re still stuck on where to go, Climatecouncil.org.au is a great place to start and is a valuable source of information.
But I’m just one person?
Don’t underestimate the power of starting small – every donation and action helps and as we see in times of crisis it’s the collective small efforts of many people that make a huge difference. In places where there’s been significant damage, the needs for funding and support will be ongoing and contributions will continue to be welcomed, appreciated and needed much later on.
A number of our own staff and customers were affected in the Northern Rivers fires before Christmas, which was a large trigger behind Enova's efforts to do what it can to help fire-affected communities. Since 1st December 2019, all new customers have been offered the choice of a donation to the Red Cross bushfire appeal or a credit on their first bill. Many of our new customers shave supported this initiative and as of 13th January 2020 donations, 5 are nearing $10,000. We will continue to offer this to new customers throughout January and February.
Many of our staff have also donated directly to causes close to their heart and we are in the process of organising an Enova tree planting day in the near future. Our very own CFO, Phill Le Marinel, is also a long-standing volunteer with RFS. Phill has been fighting fires through the fire season here in the Northern Rivers.
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Share your thoughts
If there’s other suggestions or actions you’re taking, we’d love to hear from you! Please comment below and share your thoughts.