We don't need to go too deeply into how horrendous these fires have been, and how much we've lost here in Australia. If you're outside Australia and need a comparison, we've so far seen 5 million hectares burn in Australia since 1 July. The 2018 California fires saw 1.8 million hectares burn, while the Amazon fires burned 900,000 hectares. Since this was reported we've had even more fires - people spent their New Years Eve on the red skied beaches they were told to evacuate to, because all the roads to safety were blocked. The header photo of this article [ABC News, East Gippsland] was taken by mother Allison Marion of one of her sons as they fled Mallacoota. Almost every time we have a hot day at the moment (which is often, being Australian Summer, and with, you guessed it, climate change making everything a whole lot hotter), we can expect out of control fires to rage across the country.
We've had a lot of people from both inside and outside Australia ask what they can do, so we've put together this article on where to donate, and actions you can take.
First up, if you're in Australia
Write a letter to your local MP. No matter which side of parliament they sit on, or whether or not you think they'll listen, they need to hear your story, and they need to hear what you want done about it. We've written a guide on what to put into this letter, or if you don't have time to put a letter together, then make a call. Post an image of your letter or of you making a call, tagging us or hashtagging #fireback on Instagram or Twitter so we see your letter so we can share it. If you're only on Facebook, send us a Facebook message with the pic. Here's that guide again. Let's flood their offices with messages. We need our politicians to step up on climate action right now.
If you're outside Australia
Keep putting pressure on your government to act on climate change through attending protests and writing letters. Some of our letter writing guide might help you with this - you could use the Australian fires as an example, as well as examples of how climate change is affecting you where you live. If you're coming into an election, vote for the politician with the best climate policies, and if you have the time, volunteer. Prevention is always better than a cure, anyone who has lost their home in a fire will tell you. Keep taking action in your daily life as well, making the switch to public transport, choosing a holiday location that's closer to home so that you can drive or get the train there, or switch to a bank that isn't investing in fossil fuels.
Donating from anywhere in the world
If you're able, giving money is probably the best thing you can do. It allows charities to help people affected by fires, or the people themselves, to have the flexibility to use the money in whatever way they need. Most charities at this point are asking that donors don't send in items such as clothing or food, as often they will be items that are no longer needed, or they might be too difficult to distribute, and they end up taking up needed space.
Here are charities, organisations and communities that will put your funds to good use. They all accept credit card, so you should be able to make a payment and help, whether you're within, or outside Australia.
NSW Rural Fire Service
A lot of funding has been cut to Fire and Rescue Services (perfect timing) and the NSW Rural Fire Services - mainly a volunteer service, is under resourced. People have gone weeks risking their lives to fight fires, while missing out on paid work.
This story about a volunteer firefighter working on the frontline broke us. Read it in full here.
While firefighting planes and helicopters are being used to fight fires closer to Sydney, in rural areas, the RFS is often all people have got. The RFS are doing an incredible job of protecting people, their homes, pets and livestock in rural areas. All the evacuation warnings are coming from the RFS, and they're even doing backburning on cooler days to protect people from more fires when it heats up again. The RFS brigades rely heavily on donations from the community to support their work. You can donate by credit card here, or for bank details and info on where to send a cheque or money order, go here.
Australian Red Cross
The Australian Red Cross is supporting people affected by fires in New South Wales (NSW), Queensland and South Australia (SA). They have 60 evacuation centres across NSW, and five across Queensland. At these centres they're offering psychological first aid, and helping people get in touch with their family and friends. They also are providing $2000 emergency grants to people who have lost their homes in the fires. You can donate by credit card here or by money order, cheque or over the phone at Commonwealth Bank branches.
View this post on Instagram
This #BurntChristmasTree in Wynyard Park was crafted last night from burnt branches, lost objects and eucalyptus and banksia seeds. It symbolises the shadow that the bushfires have cast over #Christmas, but also shows that our communities are resilient and will recover. Sound on 🔈 The Burnt Christmas Tree is a place where the community can reflect and is the work of artist James Dive. The public can donate to Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery through tap-and-go EFTPOS. 🎥 by @scoundrel_films_projects #jamesdive #christmas #sydney
A post shared by Australian Red Cross (@redcrossau) on
This fundraiser is going to help fire affected First Nations people through covering temporary relocation costs, home and furniture refurbishment, resettling expenses when required, and replacement of vital belongings, such as medical equipment, clothing and toiletries. All of this help will be provided in a culturally sensitive way - this fundraiser is organised by a Yorta Yorta man, in consultation with fire affected First Nations peoples across the East Coast of Australia.
We acknowledge that these fires are happening across Sacred Aboriginal lands, where sovereignty has never been ceded. It's their country, and their sacred sites that are burning. Going forward, we need to recognise that First Nations people's connection to country is vital to caring for this land, and we need to act on this. You can donate by credit or debit card here.
St Vincent de Paul
While the Red Cross is helping people face more immediate impacts, Vinnies is helping people in the long term, working to provide them with clothing, food, groceries and emotional support. You can donate to the Vinnies bushfire appeal by credit card here.
View this post on Instagram
This is the queue at a Woolworths supermarket* in Moyura, on the far south coast of NSW. The Australian government is completely unprepared for these catastrophic fires. Australians are without basic necessities - food, water, shelter, healthy air. A Government that denies the truth of the climate emergency, while plundering the country for private profit, cannot respond adequately. 2020: the year we create the changes we need. See you on the streets. #NowOrNever . . *Woolworths Group is in the top 100 of the world's highest corporate greenhouse gas emitters 👎 (Climate Action 100+) . . @extinctionrebellionsydney
A post shared by Extinction Rebellion Australia (@xrebellionaus) on
Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF)
The East Gippsland fires raged over New Years, turning the skies a deep, dark red. At the time of writing, 17 people are still missing, and police and fire and rescue services are still telling people to leave their homes for safety, as they expect the fires to continue, or get worse in the next few days.
GERF is working to provide immediate relief to people who have been affected in the area, providing food, shelter, clothing, utensils, furniture, bedding, and resources for children's education. 100% of donations are going to the community, with no costs being deducted, helping families while they wait for insurance and government claims to be processed. Donations can be made via Paypal here, at any NAB branch across Australia, or you can send a cheque or money order to Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund, PO Box 508 Traralgon VIC 3844.
View this post on Instagram
I'm sure most people following this page have now heard about the East Gippsland bushfire crisis. The Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) has launched an appeal for financial donations to provide fire-affected East Gippslanders with immediate support. The funds raised will be distributed to impacted families for discretionary use while insurance and government claims are being processed. A registered charitable organisation (Registered number A0020241A), GERF is a unique regionally based fund, with well established procedures for handling public appeals for emergencies and their disbursements. All donations are returned to the community and no costs are deducted. The fund focuses on providing for personal losses such as people's immediate requirements for food, shelter, clothing, utensils, furniture, bedding, children's educational needs, etc, as distinct from capital items covered by insurance or government grants. Financial support is most effective when provided as quickly as possible following the impact or onset of an emergency situation. Please follow the link in my profile if you wish to donate. Potential donors can contribute via PayPal, deposit into a nominated bank account, by posting a cheque to the fund's post office box, or by donating in cash. #eastgippsland #eastgippslandfires #gippslandemergencyrelieffund #gerf #bushfiresaustralia #thisisnotnormal #gippsland #supportlocalgippsland
A post shared by Tammy Logan (@gippslandunwrapped) on
Hundreds of communities and families have created Go Fund Me pages which you can donate to and directly support people who have lost their homes or loved ones.
Go Fund Me is currently working to vet and verify these pages to ensure legitimacy, but if you're not sure yourself, you can always check by looking at the comments from people donating, to see if they're related to, or know the recipients.
You can find campaigns to donate to by searching "bush fire", then looking through the results to see who to donate to. We found this pretty overwhelming, but it helped to remember that while none of us can help everyone, we can all help someone. Together we can make a big difference for lots of people.
If you're in Australia, at least one of the top trending campaigns on the GoFundMe home page will be a bushfire campaign. One of these right now is the campaign for the Cudgewa community (located near Albury, on the border of NSW and VIC) where many in the community are still fighting fires, without much food or water, and no power. They have listed the supplies they're fundraising for, and have explained the situation they're facing.
You can also donate to the Adelaide Hills Koala rescue, who are going through fire affected areas to help any koalas they find alive, as well as other wildlife, livestock and pets. Check out their fundraiser here.
Wildlife Rescue South Coast
Wildlife Rescue South Coast is volunteer run and covers the coast along along New South Wales from Wollongong to the Victorian border. They are asking for donations to help get veterinary help, medicine and supplies to animals who have been affected by the fires. You can donate via paypal here or through their website here. They also have a Wildlife Calendar you can order to help support the organisation.
View this post on Instagram
Brighter news this morning from the fire grounds. While WRSC member Tameika Swan was doing yet another long stint on the fire ground today, she rescued this little ringtail possum. One of the luckier victims from these treacherous bush fires. #currowanfire #nswbushfires #wildliferescuesouthcoast #wildliferescue #volunteer #nswrfs #rfs #ringtailpossum #winnews
A post shared by Wildlife Rescue South Coast (@wildliferescuesc) on
The Rescue Collective
The Rescue Collective is based in Brisbane and is rescuing wildlife like kangaroos and birds from the fires. They are providing food and water to animals who are starving in burnt bushland. You can donate to their fundraising campaign to provide bushfire relief for wildlife here.
View this post on Instagram
Despite STILL being Zucked by Facebook, we can assure you that we have not stopped. Your donations are saving koalas just like this poor girl who came out of the Port Macquarie fires. We cannot thank you enough for supporting our pledge to save such precious creatures 💚🐨🌱
A post shared by Wildlife | Animals | Support (@therescuecollective) on
More ways to help if you're close by
Amongst all the sadness and chaos - from people losing their homes, to people trying to stay safe, many people and their animals are in need of a place to stay. Find a bed allows you to say what space you have available - an extra couple of beds, or a place for pets and other animals to stay, and they'll match you up with people who are looking. Register here.
Go on a road trip
Many of the places that fires have raged through are where we would go on holiday over the summer - and right now is usually their high season, when they make a lot of their income. To help in the long term, they need us to still go on our holidays there and spend our tourist dollars, like we always would (or if you wouldn't usually, make it a thing!) Places that have burnt out are usually safer, as there's no fuel left for the fire to come through and burn again.
View this post on Instagram
GREAT post!! So many of the charities and emergencies services I've connected with the past 36 hours have said the same thing – we're going to need to buckle in for the long haul. So whilst its GREAT we're actioning specific things RIGHT NOW, in the coming weeks when the fires calm down (Please GOD), plan a trip around regional Australia. Meet the locals, spend your money and continue to support. This is a great post. Thanks 💙💙💙🙏🙏🙏 📷 @kindnessfactory
A post shared by Lisa Messenger (@lisamessenger) on