Tuesday 7 January
This article was updated on 6 February 2020
It’s been a confronting start to 2020, yet people around Australia have responded swiftly and generously as the nationwide bushfire crisis continues to unfold.
We have received many calls and messages from members of the ACF community who feel compelled to do something to help those affected by the fires, or to ensure the situation does not get worse in years to come. Indeed, many of you have already acted. This fire season, ACF community members have donated more than $300,000 to Wildlife Victoria, WIRES NSW, Australian Red Cross, Salvation Army, Country Fire Authority, NSW Rural Fire Service, Rural Fire Brigades Association QLD and Climate Council.
The circumstances are overwhelming, as are the many ways you can provide support. We have carefully assembled funding opportunities to assist with the bushfire crisis, which span emergency response, rebuilding efforts, disaster resilience and climate change policy advocacy.
- Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Two thirds of disaster relief funding goes to emergency response and only one third to rebuilding and resilience (Centre for Disaster Philanthropy 2019). It’s OK to be talking about (and funding) rebuilding, resilience and the future implications of climate change now, and in the months ahead.
- Give cash over goods. This is the message the government and fire authorities have shared. Donated goods need to be checked, packed, transported, stored, and distributed. This can strain organisations that are trying to provide support in the field. If you’re intent on donating something other than funds, consider going through GIVIT as this platform has been established to ensure goods given are things communities are asking for. The Australian Red Cross also very much need blood donations.
- Do your due diligence (or ask the team to do it for you). Unfortunately, times of crisis often see a rise in fraudulent fundraising efforts. If you’re not donating through your fund (in which case we will identify any issues), be wary of fundraising efforts with little information available and generically named or ambiguous entities like ‘The Bush Fire Fund’. Contact us if you come across a fundraiser you are unsure about.
- There are places philanthropy can help that government agencies might not. With the increase in extreme weather events, governments cannot fully fund recovery. Therefore, private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to help with recovery efforts and to prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government is not well placed to execute.
WHERE TO GIVE
Emergency Response and Relief
Affected families and communities
The Bushfire Disaster Appeal has also been established through a joint government, business and community effort and allows you to make a national or state-specific donation. This entity is, however, not eligible to receive grants from ACF funds.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to provide culturally-sensitive support for First Nations communities affected by the fires. The Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities will carry out the mission of this GoFundMe campaign through a partnership with Australian Communities Foundation. First Nations peoples are developing the strategy for getting support to communities and directly addressing the gaps in other funding sources to rebuild the Indigenous communities affected.
Foodbank has been appointed the primary food relief organisation, and you can select which state your donation goes to.
StreetSmart Australia has been talking to those on the ground to gain a better understanding of the urgent and vital needs of their community partners in affected areas. StreetSmart has decided to raise funds through February’s StreetFunder for three small grassroots organisations who are responding to community needs, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable. Those organisations are The Hut Community Centre in The Adelaide Hills SA, Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House in VIC and Social Justice Advocates – Bega Valley in NSW. During February, all StreetFunder donations will immediately support and fund the capacity of these organisations who are helping people impacted by the fires with direct emergency aid and assistance.
First Nations relief
Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), at the request of Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisations in the Gippsland region, has become the point of contact for all bushfire donations until such times that a Foundation is established.
VACCHO member organisations have been impacted by the bush fires and are also playing an essential role in emergency relief, particularly as a first responder. This demands of this role are expected to increase in the coming weeks. VACCHO will be coordinating support to ACCOs by working with our other member services to provide workforce support to address the immediate needs.
The RSPCA is coordinating efforts across state borders.
Other rescue efforts across the country are often localised. These include SAVEM in SA (including Kangaroo Island), WIRES in NSW, Wildlife Victoria in VIC, Tasmanian Land Conservancy in TAS and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in QLD.
State Fire Services
These are government funded and run organisations with memberships comprised of local fire brigades across their state. Rural fire services rely upon large volunteer work forces (NSW’s RFS is the world’s largest volunteer fire service).
This list of responding organisations across the country is a good place to start.
Recovery and Rebuilding
Many of the organisations listed in the Emergency Response section will shift to rebuilding efforts and mental health support in the future – providing funding ongoing can be a big help.
Affected families and communities
Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund gets funding into communities to assist with their preparedness activities, and to have funds available to support them through the medium to long-term aftermath of a disaster, long after the headlines have moved on to something else. Funds are invested, alongside FRRR’s existing corpus funds, with the returns used to support communities.
Local Community Foundations can be a great place to start when looking for place-based rebuilding and resilience funding opportunities. Many community foundations across the country are in fire affected areas. We’ll be providing more information as it comes through. In the meantime, get in touch with Gerlinde Scholz from Australian Community Philanthropy to learn if there’s a community foundation in a fire affected area you care about.
Currently, three community foundations are running active appeals:
At the local level, Alpine Health and Into Our Hands Community Foundation are together running the Rotary Air Purifier Project focused on the practical needs and costs emerging in northeast Victoria, particularly around Mt Buffalo, Bright and King Valley areas where the air quality has been hazardous here for over three weeks and is very difficult to live and work in. With the ongoing extreme poor air quality in this region, especially the Ovens and Kiewa Valleys, Alpine Health has an urgent requirement for portable air purifiers. It has been identified a total of 45 Dyson TP04 units ( 15 per hospital) is required at $700 each, totalling $31,500.
The Community Foundation for the Tumut Region is coordinating a donation appeal for victims directly affected by the Dunns Road fire, which claimed more than 100 homes and tore through 300,000 hectares. The latest update on this appeal can be found here. Supporting partners in the appeal are Elders Adelong and Tumut, the Adelong Progress Association and Bendigo Bank Adelong. The appeal has attracted generous support from the community and a coordinator is needed to step in and manage the distribution of funds. The Foundation is seeking $40,000 to bring someone into this role. If you’d like more information, please contact Louise Halsey.
Good360 is a matchmaker connecting the needs of communities with brand new goods from businesses. Good360 helps connect the right goods to the right people at the right time during all stages of a disaster, providing hope and dignity to Australians impacted. Good360 is there in the early days with personal care items, supplies for shelters and evacuation centres and are there months and years later with furniture, mattresses, home goods and other necessities to help communities through the recovery journey. Donations to their bushfire appeal go towards coordinating the delivery of the right goods to the communities at the right time over the many months and years of recovery of this unprecedented disaster.
BlazeAid is a volunteer-run organisation that works alongside local communities to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed after a fire.
First Nations initiatives
Mogo Local Aboriginal Land Council plays an important role for the local Yuin community across many localities (Mogo, Broulee, Mossy Point, Batehaven, Malua Bay and Tomakin), providing a space for community members to meet in addition to providing a wide range of services, from housing to art and education programs, alongside a range of cultural and environmental services. These services are needed more than ever to deal with the difficult time ahead.
The local community is strong and resilient, but much support is needed for the rebuilding effort and to assist those who were the most affected by this tragedy. The fires have deeply scared Yuin Country, including sites of spiritual and cultural significance in addition to the loss of a large number of animals which only add to the trauma.
You can support Gondwana Link for Noongar and Ngadju groups in Western Australia. There have been big fires in the Stirling Ranges (including Noongar country) and in the Great Western Woodlands (including Ngadju country) in significant biodiversity hotspots. Gondwana Link can receive funds and direct to where needed locally as efforts are identified after the fires clear, such as supporting Noongar and Ngadju rangers to be involved in post-fire monitoring and cultural burning.
Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation is ready to deliver an Indigenous-led Cultural Fire program to support affected communities and countries to heal after the devastating fire crisis. Firesticks partners with diverse communities, landholders, agencies and institutions across the continent to identify pathways to apply cultural fire to landscapes, to help heal and care for Country and empowering communities through mentorship and shared understandings that are improving fire management in Australia.
Birdlife Australia assists landowners and government with bird-safe fire management and rehabilitation. As Australia’s national bird conservation charity, BirdLife Australia is coordinating the post-bushfire recovery of threatened birds, working closely with all levels of government, Natural Resource Management agencies, researchers, zoos and community groups. A detailed overview of BirdLife’s recovery responses can be found in this proposal for collaborative support.
WWF’s Help Save Koalas appeal replants trees in critical koala habitats post-fire and protects existing forest and woodland and the wildlife that live there.
Mental health and wellbeing
The mental health impacts of traumatic events like the bushfire crisis can be huge, and long lasting. For people on the front lines, fighting fires or fleeing their homes, the danger is real and visceral. But for those further removed geographically from the fires, breathing smokey air and reading harrowing media reports can also be extremely distressing and triggering.
Save the Children is setting up Child Friendly Spaces in bushfire-affected regions to help children cope by giving them a place to be kids again. Supported by dedicated staff trained in helping children in crisis, the kids can draw, play and socialise. Most importantly, they can begin to process their experiences in a safe and supported environment. You can support this work here.
Beyond Blue has a range of resources to help communities and individuals dealing with the feelings and thoughts that result from a bushfire or from the tragic losses that may occur.
Advice from Beyond Blue on dealing with the emotional impact of a bushfire:
- spend time with people who care
- give yourself time
- find out about the impact of trauma and what to expect
- try to keep a routine going
- talk about how you feel about what happened when you are ready
- do things that help you relax.
On the law and justice side of things, there are both immediate and longer term strategies forming across the country in response to the bushfire crisis. There are many immediate legal issues that people commonly face after a bushfire, including: the rejection of insurance claims; disputes with landlords about the termination of leases for properties impacted or destroyed by fire; replacing destroyed documents such as wills and title documents; financial problems resulting from the loss of employment; and managing other debt and financial hardship issues.
Free legal assistance is available through Disaster Legal Help Victoria for anyone affected by the recent Victorian bushfires. Disaster Legal Help Victoria is a collaboration between Victoria Legal Aid, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Bar and Justice Connect. It was originally formed in response to the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. They have opened up expressions of interest for lawyers and legal practices interested in volunteering in Victoria, particularly those in proximity to the impacted areas in East Gippsland and North East Victoria.
Anyone affected by the NSW bushfires can contact LawAccess NSW or call the Disaster Response Legal Service NSW on 1800 801 529 to get help with a range of issues including insurance claims and tenancy.
The Climate Council Emergency Leaders for Climate Action campaign is comprised of 22 former senior emergency service leaders with first-hand experience of escalating climate change impacts, who are uniting to push for strong leadership on climate change action. ACF collective giving fund Groundswell is raising money to make their first grant of $50,000 to this campaign. You can join as a Groundswell Member (via interfund transfer) to contribute to this grant, or give directly to Climate Council.
The Australia Institute is proposing the creation of a National Climate Disaster Fund, financed by a levy of $1 per tonne of carbon dioxide pollution resulting from all coal, gas and oil produced in Australia. Research from The Australia Institute has shown that such a levy would currently raise around $1.5 billion a year.
If you have a sub fund with ACF and would like advice related to a specific geographic area, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note, this list is by no means exhaustive and will be updated as more information becomes available.