Image via @melanippe_art
Since September, Australia has been facing an unprecedented national crisis, as bushfires are spreading throughout rural communities across the nation. To date, the fires have claimed 25 lives with another 28 people confirmed missing, and over 1,500 homes have been destroyed. The fires show no sign of slowing down, especially because Australia is only at the beginning of their summer season. The scale of the threat is immense as fires rage in every state, with some of the greatest conflagrations in NSW and Victoria. In major cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, the recorded air quality measurements are 20 times above the hazardous level. For those of us left feeling helpless by the unfolding crisis, here are a few ways that you can help:
1. Donate to help first responders.
As of this morning, the Australian wildfires have claimed 25 lives and are expected to burn for months. In New South Wales, there are currently 136 fires, of which 69 remain uncontained. With fire conditions getting worse in the coming days, help is required. For the most part, it has been volunteer firefighting services who have been risking their lives to battle the fires. Donating money (if you can) is one of the most useful ways to help because the needs of first responders and victims are great and varied.
You can donate to state-based brigades such as the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Victoria’s Country Fire Authority, and South Australia’s Country Fire Service. Comedian Celeste Barber launched a Facebook fundraiser, which has raised more than $30 million, with money going directly to the NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donations Fund, and this GoFundMe is raising money to provide volunteer firefighters with face masks. You can also donate to the families of firefighters who have died while on duty.
2. Support animal rescue.
Nearly 500 million animals have been killed in the devastating fires. The koala population in Australia is already declining, and the fires have left them even more vulnerable. The World Wildlife Fund accepts donations to help support conservation activities, particularly related to koalas. The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has rescued more than 30 injured koalas and is at work building drinking stations for wildlife in impacted regions across New South Wales. Another option is donating to the WIRES emergency fund. They rescue injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife, and the donations will be used to help pay for things, including food, medical supplies, and vet fees. Wildlife Victoria’s bushfire relief fund will be distributed to wildlife shelters around the state to help rebuild enclosures and equipment that have been destroyed in the fires.
3. Help with relief efforts.
Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes, businesses have been devastated, streets have been wiped out, and the future is uncertain for large swathes of Australia. To help with relief efforts, consider donating to the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, or the St. Vincent Society whose fund tells you how your donation amount will help those in need: Giving $50, for example, can provide food for an evacuated family. Foodbank Victoria is providing food hampers, water, and snacks to both firefighters and those stranded due to bushfire; you can donate online here. Longer-term support for communities affected by the fires will be necessary once the fires settle, and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal will be the ones helping with that.
If you are located in Australia and would rather give goods than money, Givit coordinates getting items to people who need them. Alternatively, you can opt to donate to Givit, knowing that 100% of funds received are used to purchase essential items. Many Australian businesses are committing to donating profits to relief efforts. Restated Vintage, Hurr, and Little Something Sleepwear are all giving 100% of their profits this week.
4. Spread awareness.
No matter whether you are in a position to donate or not, we all need to do our part in spreading awareness about the unprecedented national crisis that is happening in Australia. Many of us outside of Australia learned about the crisis through social media, and so we need to make sure that we keep the conversation going so that the world doesn’t quickly forget. It is important to note that while climate change didn’t cause the bushfires, it did create the conditions for longer bushfire seasons, drought, drier fuels and soils, and record-breaking heat. Stay up-to-date with what is going on by following @abcnews_au and @guardianaustralia. Australian influencer @elle_ferguson is posting consistently about the ongoing crisis with stories and updates from those who are living through this devastation.