[Note: this post has been edited to update details of ways to give and support bushfire victims.]
It was an apocalyptic style disaster of epic proportions, with bushfires raging along the New South Wales South Coast, tearing through the small towns of Mogo and Cobargo.
Like many Canberrans, I know the area well. We often holidayed at Bateman’s Bay and surrounding areas, and have enjoyed coffee and ice-cream stops at the cute, historic town of Mogo. When the news came the day before yesterday advising people to get out, I still didn’t realise how bad it could be.
That could have been us down there.
We were only at Tathra a few days’ before Christmas, and we could have easily stayed too long and been stranded at the Bega showgrounds when the Brown Mountain road was shut. Or we could have decided to go down with my Dad for a day trip to the Bateman’s Bay area, misread the weather or failed to read the advice, and been trapped along the beach. My Dad was fishing at Mallacoota for his birthday in early December and was watching the footage on the evening news in stunned disbelief.
I am not personally affected by this tragedy, but I know many who first or second hand are. My Neil has an Uncle who has been evacuated – he is safe with his daughter but we don’t yet know about his house. He has only recently renovated his kitchen, and also has a prized collection of items from the British Royal Family. [Note: edited to say his house is safe. The house across the road burned down. Some of his front garden burnt, and someone stopped to put out the fire before got to the house.]
The question then, from this frugalista doing a decluttering challenge, is ‘what can I do to help?’.
GIVING STUFF ISN’T ALWAYS BEST
Instinctively, I want to give away stuff. All that stuff I no longer need or want, to those who have lost everything. But I’m holding that temptation, at least for now.
My Neil – away overseas with work atm – has been in the NSW Rural Fire Service for 11 years. So I value his advice about what people need in the immediate aftermath of a fire. In his words, “what they need isn’t things, they have been traumatised and need empathic people to just let them tell their story“. And actually, when I think about it, this is so true. When you have been through trauma, the first thing you need is emotional support – not people foisting stuff on you.
This is a time for generosity but also important to be mindful about doing so. As many people declutter in January, giving is probably at the top of our minds. The issue is ensuring that you give the right things to the right people or organisations who need it. Volunteers are already working overtime and sorting through and disposing of junk can be a distraction.
One way to give mindfully is to donate items through Givit. Givit has a dedicated bushfire appeal, although at the time of writing it had not yet focused on the South Coast. Givit posts a list of items that are required, and you can respond with a picture of what you have. This means that charities don’t end up with, say, thousands of blankets when they really need nappies. Or something else random that they need to dispose of.
HOW YOU CAN HELP BUSHFIRE SURVIVORS
LIST CURRENT AS OF 9pm, 2 JANUARY 2020
And while there will most probably be calls to support particular people or causes in coming weeks, at the time of writing, the roads to the coast aren’t even open so getting stuff to people isn’t an option. So instead, Neil advises donating money to a recognised charity that has a dedicated bushfire fund, for example:
- The New South Wales Rural Fire Service appeal. Give money directly to the firies doing the work so they can afford things like new equipment. You may also want to consider volunteering – especially if you live in a rural community. You don’t have to be a hero on the fire ground to be involved, and they need a range of skills (including communications).
- The Salvation Army Disaster appeal. The Salvos are often first responders and have an empathetic and common sense approach.
- Vinnies Bushfire Appeal. $50 can provide food for a family who have been evacuated.
- Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation. I’m betting you probably haven’t heard of this organisation unless you have spent time in Taiwan as I have. Tzu Chi is one of the world’s largest humanitarian organisations and is often a compassionate first responder in disasters. It has already provided money to people affected by homes on the Mid Coast – I’m yet to hear if they will be active on the South Coast.
N.B. I’ve edited this post to provide further links to information about people, organisations or services that want support. I’m updating these links as I receive more information. Contact me if you would like me to add to this list.
How to help
- Anglicare NSW South, NSW West & ACT – accepting donations of non-perishable food and toiletries (30 Scotts Crossing, Civic ACT) ACT Evacuation Centre at Dickson (until Saturday) – Vinnies welcomes donations of toiletries items (including new underwear). For other items such as clothing, donate through their stores and they will sort and arrange for them to be distributed in effected areas.
- Foodbank – natural disaster relief
- Bushfire BBQ at the Queanbeyan showgrounds. Queanbeyan showgrounds is a designated evacuation point. Organisers need help with items for a BBQ. Join the Facebook Group to find out more.
- Info re Queanbeyan showgrounds and surrounding areas – QPRC (local council) website, and FB
- GoFundMe page to raise money for fence palings in Cobargo
- BlazeAid – helping communities rebuild after natural disasters
- South Coast Fire Support Team – Facebook Group for donation delivery from Sydney to Bateman’s Bay.
- Uniting Church Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy
- Animal Rescue Collective FB page – details of campaigns to help feed and rescue wildlife
- WIRES (wildlife rescue) – FB page
- #slabsforheroes – Facebook Group based community group proudly supporting the local RFS brigades in Canberra and the surrounding areas.
- Bushfire emergency accommodation in Canberra – Facebook group with details of accommodation and transportation for people trying to get to Canberra
- AirBnB emergency housing in NSW – portal offering free accommodation from 1 to 16 January for bushfire survivors
- Givit – disasters. Supporting bushfires in northern NSW. Now includes the South Coast and places in the ACT to drop off items.
- ACT Wildlife – urges people to leave out water for wildlife.
- Thread re people offering evacuees with vans access to power at their homes (Canberra Notice Board FB group)
- A detailed list of resources compiled by Kate Crowhurt from Money Bites
- Celeste Barber’s fundraiser for The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund
Resources re how to support bushfire recovery in a meaningful way
- Generous Canberra steps up to help those affected by bushfires – and our hero firefighters (The Canberra Times, 8 January 2020)
- Here’s how you can help Australia’s bushfire victims (The Age, 4 January 2020)
- Tips from a bushfire survivor (Liz Tilley, 11 February 2009)
- Bushfire donations: How you can help (ABC news, 23 December 2020)
- Bushfire relief: How you can help frontline services and what actions hinder efforts (ABC News)
In coming days and weeks, there are likely to be more calls for assistance to help rebuilding. I often like to support local service clubs such as Rotary, Lions Clubs, the CWA, Zonta and local Life Saving Clubs. These groups are active in their local communities and they know what their communities need and want. In addition, local radio stations are likely to post news about what is happening and how to support. It’s more than stuff – they may need volunteers.
GIVING, BUT NOT TO THE BUSHFIRES
So I didn’t give away anything to bushfire victims yesterday. I didn’t do anything virtuous. But my Dad came to my rescue with my challenge. He commented that he liked my homemade olives, so I gave him a jar.
And he was reading about Elizabeth Macarthur in the newspaper this morning, so I gave him the thoughtful and fascinating biography of Ms Macarthur written by my friend Michelle Scott-Tucker. It’s a fabulous book and I’m sure he will enjoy it as much as I did.
So, readers, I would like your help. Do you know about charities/organisations in bushfire affected areas that are accepting goods by way of donations? Do you know of organisations that need help? Have you personally been affected by tragedy, and if so, how can we help you now, or what lessons or advice do you have for others? And what are you doing to help others in this time of crisis?