The best ways to help with the Australian bushfires crisis

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by Sarah Halfpenny

Watching the intense blazes tearing across our country has left many of us with a sense of helplessness. We want to do more than just sit and watch it unfold on our screens, so if you’re looking for ways to help out during this unprecedented crisis, here are some practical ways to pitch in. There should be something to suit everyone, no matter what strengths and skills you have.

Cash donations

The overwhelming advice from charities of all types is that donations of money are the most useful to them. Firstly, many charities have been inundated with donated goods, and the logistics of sorting and storing these takes a lot of time, which causes problems for organisations that are already undermanned.

Secondly, it puts cash directly into the hands of the people who need it most, and gives them autonomy over what they spend it on. Being able to choose exactly what they want and need is an important psychological step in their recovery.

By donating cash you can also spread the help to different charities. Most people will be aware of the incredible effort from Australian comedian Celeste Barber, who initiated a fundraiser for the RFS in NSW that has so far received over $42 million! Celeste has assured contributors that the funds will be shared amongst many charities including WIRES and the Red Cross but there are many other smaller organisations that could use help, including Blazeaid and the Shoalhaven Bat Clinic.

‘Adopt’ a koala

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital offers the chance to ‘adopt’ one of these adorable animals. Your adoption helps with the rescue and treatment of sick and injured koalas and the release back to their home range where possible. It also assists with the conservation and expansion of habitat, collection of information for research relating to habitat, disease, nutrition and habits of wild koalas, and provides educational material to increase public awareness of all aspects of the koala.

The cost for adoptions within Australia ranges from$40–$60 per year and you even get a certificate with a photo of your koala on it – perfect for placing on the fridge to make you smile every day!

Crafting for animals

If you’re the crafty type, there’s a brilliant Facebook group called Animal Rescue Craft Guild which is 100% volunteer run and has all the patterns and tutorials you need to make exactly what our injured wildlife need to recover as well as information about where to send them.

They have members from Australian and all over the world who are sewing, making, designing and recycling everything they can get their hands on to make products that help animal rescue, as well as beds, crates, containers and support equipment to help rescuers.

Check their Facebook page for updates on what is most needed, but as a general guide this is what they are asking for:

Machine sewers: joey pouches, hanging joey pouches, bat wraps, quilts and blankets (note: no hand-sewn items)

Crocheters: birds’ nests, blankets, joey pouch outers, animal jumpers

Knitters: blankets, joey pouch outers, animal jumpers

Volunteer your time

Thanks to the generosity of the general public, charities and food banks have been inundated with donations of clothing, household items and long-life food.  Contact your local charity and see if they need help sorting donations.

Buy Australian

When you’re grocery shopping, consider making as many of your purchases as possible Australian made. The bushfires have decimated many farms and those who are still operating will be struggling. They’ll need time to get back on their feet but they need us to continue buying their milk, cheese, grains, fruit and vegetables.

Do something for the family of a fire fighter

If you have a friend who is a fire fighter, it could be a lovely and unexpected bonus for them and their family if you deliver a home-cooked meal or two, or offer to help with jobs around their house or look after their children so they can take a well-earned break. Sometimes it’s little gestures like these that are worth more than money.

Support events and restaurants that raise funds for bushfire relief

In every state there are concerts with appearances from well-known Australian musicians being organised that put all profits back into a variety of charities. Look up your local venues and go along with a group of friends to enjoy a night out, knowing your money is helping a worthwhile cause.

In addition, restaurants and cafes around the country are chipping in – ask around and if you choose wisely, your morning coffee, lazy Sunday brunch or big family celebration could contribute to aiding bushfire relief.

Long-term strategies

There are plenty of long-term actions we can take to help the environment and the people affected by the fires.

Get busy planting native trees for birds, leaving out non-metal (preferably terracotta) water bowls with stones and sticks in them on hot days, and making sure swimming pools have climb-out points for animals. After the immediate crisis has passed, consider donating to zoos whose research may help critically endangered species survive into the future.

Book lovers can buy new books to donate to schools that have burnt down to re-establish their libraries and ask how else they may assist in the reconstruction process.

When it’s safe to do so, take holidays or weekend trips to bushfire-affected towns. One popular suggestion has been to go with ‘empty eskies’ and fill them there by buying goods and services from the towns, including a full tank of petrol, meals from cafes, and food from local growers and supermarkets.

Long after the fires have died down, these towns and our wildlife will need our ongoing help to rebuild and regenerate.

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