Unprecedented bushfires are raging across the nation.
They have torched more than eight million hectares, claimed 24 lives, destroyed 1500 homes and killed half a billion animals.
Amid the ruins, though, are first responders, volunteers, charitable and community organisations and members of the general public, all rallying to help bushfire victims and injured wildlife.
From donating and volunteering to housing those who have lost their homes, here’s what you need to know about how to help.
Food and water
Foodbank feeds 815,000 people every month. On top of that, the organisation is now leading the efforts to get food and water to bushfire-hit communities, relying entirely on donations from the public, business partners and the food industry, as well as hundreds of volunteers.
The bushfires have inspired “an extraordinary display of generosity”, Foodbank Australia chief executive Brianna Casey said.
“We have seen an outpouring of support over the last few days, with members of the public making enormous donations of food, groceries and funds to allow us to distribute essential items to bushfire ravaged regions.”
We can actually turn $1 into $6 worth of food and groceries,” she said.
“So it’s a really important way for you to stretch that donation even further.”
When it comes to donating food and groceries, there is “a really specific list of items we need you to bring along, and in particular some items we don’t need you to bring along”, Ms Casey advised.
“Space is at a premium at the moment. We’re trying to get all of these products into the community, we need the right products coming through,” she said.
So keep up the great enthusiasm, but please do it in a really structured way.”
Foodbank relies on an army of volunteers, but training is required before commencing as warehouses are “active live sites”. You can click this link to register your interest.
The recovery effort is in its early stages, and ongoing public support is vital, Ms Casey said.
“Please stick with us for the long haul…we’re going to need assistance for months and years ahead,” she said.
“We’ve been absolutely thrilled and overwhelmed by the support that we’ve received. And we would love it to continue.”
Red Cross is currently on the ground supporting people in evacuation centres and recovery hubs across four states: NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia.
The organisation is responsible for the humanitarian response – looking after emotional needs of those affected – which includes making wellbeing phone calls and distributing emergency grants to people who lost property.
“Our disaster work goes all year round. As well as responding to disasters when they occur we put a lot of effort in preparedness and recovery,” Red Cross spokeswoman Susan Cullinan said.
Recovery starts on day one as soon as a disaster hits.
“The earlier a community can think about life after a disaster the better the recovery will be.”
When it comes to the best way for the public to help, cash is king.
We aren’t able to receive donations of goods. In fact it’s something that often gets in the way of a response operation,” Ms Cullinan said.
However, you can donate quality clothing and small homewares to Red Cross shops across the nation, which help fund the organisation’s everyday efforts.
New volunteers are always welcome, but Red Cross doesn’t accept “spontaneous” volunteers as training is required, Ms Cullinan said. Those interested can fill out an application online.
If you’ve got a spare room, or a home, to offer to those affected by bushfires there are two ways to help.
Find A Bed was set up in response to the bushfires. The volunteer-run initiative helps match those displaced by the fires with members of the public offering a place to stay, temporary homes for pets and animals, or even just somewhere to have a shower. Visit the Find A Bed website to sign up.
Airbnb is also helping to house people affected by bushfires and volunteers via its Open Homes Program. Bushfire victims and relief workers can book free accommodation on Airbnb until January 16 via this link.
Beware of scammers
On Monday, the consumer watchdog warned that heartless scammers are taking advantage of the disaster by masquerading as legitimate charities.
“There are currently a wide range of appeals raising funds for people and animals affected by the bushfires. Unfortunately, some of these are scams,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said.
The ACCC has set up a dedicated phone number for the public to report bushfire-related scams: 1300 795 995
You can also make a report on the Scamwatch website.
Where to donate
Bushfire and disaster appeals
- Bushfire Disaster Appeal
- Foodbank Bushfire Emergency Relief Appeal
- Red Cross’ Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund
- Australian Lions Foundation National Bushfire Appeal
- NSW Rural Fire Service
- VIC Country Fire Authority
- SA Country Fire Service
- QLD Rural Fire Brigades Association