If you don’t need the introduction, skip to the heading “Choosing How to Help” for the list of ways you can get involved in fighting the Australia bushfires. Scroll to the bottom for a list of resources if you or your family are in need of help.
CN: in depth discussion of the consequences of the Australia bushfires, and climate change. Discussion of government corruption, and animal death and endangerment, mention of concentration camps, mental health issues, and anti-LGBT sentiments.
Back in June, when I read the newest developments about the US concentration camps for immigrants, I realized that the feelings of urgency that came up were feelings thousands of people shared with me. People wanted to help and they had no idea how. So I gave them a list of potential ways to help. That was by far my most successful article to date, in part because people wanted the information it provided so badly, they just didn’t feel equipped to find it themselves.
This week, I had that same feeling of urgency reading about the severity of the wildfires burning across Australia. So I wrote another guide.
The sense that “We need to DO something” is so easily squashed by the overwhelm of how big the problem is, especially when the majority of my community is in the US, a whole world away from the center of the problems. You can’t possibly fix a crisis of this scale by yourself and the solutions that do exist aren’t simple, so it’s easy to give up, thinking, “What’s the point?”
By doing the work of research, organizing the resources, and explaining clear terms what actions are required to help, I have significantly lowered the threshold to people feeling that their actions will have an impact. They no longer have to go through the process of searching for methods, sifting through the many potential places to donate, deciding which ones are really helpful, etc which can often lead to decision paralysis.
Knowing how effective that list of resource was in June, if you also feel that sense of urgency about the fires in Australia, I hope you’ll scroll through this list until you find something that you feel empowered to do, and I hope you’ll share this list with everyone you know who wants to help as much as you do.
Because the actions that an individual can take to effect a large scale problem are pretty similar regardless of the problem, and because not everyone reading this article has seen my Close the Camps article, you’ll see a lot of similarities between that article and this one. The advice is no less important or accurate.
What’s Happening in Australia?
Since September, bush fires of immense proportions have been burning across Australia, with the largest fires in New South Wales and Victoria. While large bushfires are common in the northern savannah of Australia, these are on a whole different scale of severity, likely as a result of climate change. As of January 6th, the total burned area had reached 8.4m hectares. The Guardian has this interactive map where a square that represents the total area can be positioned over different cities in order to get an understanding of just how large this fire is.
The fires have taken the lives of at least 25 people, with dozens more missing, and over 1,500 homes have been claimed by the blaze. Just as devastating, an estimated half a billion animals have been killed in the fires, with koala populations particularly at risk. Even those not directly impacted by the fires are seeing serious consequences due to the incredibly hazardous air quality.
Cnet has a very informative in depth article about the situation in Australia if you’re interested in learning more. (Many of the sources linked there and here are the same, but I found their formatting overwhelming and confusing so I recommend using my list instead).
My information is going to be particularly geared toward informing my US audience what they can do from across the world to help, given they make up the majority of my following but I have also included information for what you can do if you’re local to the fires or directly impacted by them.
The people of Australia are asking for help. Here’s what you can do:
Choosing How to Help
I said it before and I’ll say it again…
“There’s a lot of information here and indecision is stressful. Please don’t look at this long list and go, “Nope! Too much! Can’t do it.” Once you pick one specific action and commit to it, that feeling of overwhelm will lessen significantly.
Start with the first item on this list and ask yourself honestly if you can do it. If the answer is no, proceed to the next one. Don’t spend energy on feeling guilty you can’t do more. Keep reading and asking yourself until the answer is yes, and then do that thing. Your contribution is valuable. It is literally impossible for you to fix this on your own, which means each of us, as individual people, have to offer our piece collectively in order for change to happen. Don’t let fear stop you from contributing.”
The quickest and most efficient way to help in a large-scale crisis is to donate money to established organizations. They have the resources and connections to stretch those dollars to buy far more supplies than you would be able to as an individual. The Guardian has this excellent guide to donating that includes information on how to spot a scam, tips on fundraising, and recommendations for direct donations over donating to an individual’s fundraiser.
There are a lot of options for places to donate so if you have a tendency to get overwhelmed by too many choices, consider sending one of these lists to five friends and proposing that each of you should choose a different organization from the list to donate/volunteer for.
If you are located outside Australia, please be on the lookout for special instructions on how to donate, which may require an additional few steps. I can’t guarantee that all of these resources make it possible to donate from outside Australia.
Donations to Support the Firefighters
Thousands of firefighters have been working countless hours to battle this crisis, including many that have flown from overseas to be there. Many of them are working without pay. Here are a few places to donate to support them:
- The NSW Rural Fire Service
- The Country Fire Service in South Australia
- Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland Inc.
Donations to Support Wildlife
The wildlife in Australia is a particularly important part of their world and their culture, and in addition to many millions of animals dying in the fires, many more are now at risk because their habitats have been destroyed.
Wires Wildlife Rescue was one of the most recommended organizations to donate to. They have a number of inventive ways to donate to them, such as donating in memory of a loved one, buying a wildlife calendar, and if you pledge a monthly donation of $20, they send you an adorable plushie echidna! Wires also has volunteer opportunities for those local to their efforts, instructions on how to start a community fundraiser, and options for larger organizations to become involved.
Here are some alternative organizations to donate to as well:
- The RSPCA bushfire appeal
- The World Wildlife Fund (They specialize in koala protection)
- Zoos Victoria Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund
- Port Macquarie Koala Hospital GoFundMe (warning: page includes some upsetting photos of koalas)
- The Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park Gofundme
Donations to General Relief and Support
The Red Cross and the St. Vincent De Paul Society are two of the largest organizations in Australia involved in getting help where it’s needed. You can donate to them on their websites, and they also both have volunteer opportunities for those local to the organizations.
To support the First Nations communities in Australia, you can donate to this GoFundMe. Many First Nations families have been forced from their homes and seek lodging elsewhere as a result of the fires. The fundraiser is being run by Neil Morris who is himself from a First Nations community.
On Food Bank’s donation page, they say that “Every $1 you donate provides 2 meals to an Australian going hungry.” Scroll to the bottom of the page for additional instructions for international donations.
You also have the option to focus your donations on the children impacted by the fires. From their donation page: “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.” Donors located outside Australia can donate via their Facebook page.
Other places to donate:
- GlobalGiving’s Wildfire Relief Fund (A U.S. based fundraiser)
- Direct Relief – This organization funds supplies, particularly N95 masks which are needed to protect against the hazardous air quality. (U.S. based fundraiser)
- Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal – They specialize in long term support for communities in the months after the crisis.
- GoFundMe for trauma/mental health support
Note: The Victorian Government has partnered with Bendigo Bank and The Salvation Army to raise funds, and because three large organizations are involved, I came across multiple websites to donate to this fund during my search. I opted not to include this fund in my recommended places to donate because, while they claim to be accepting, Salvation Army has a history of discriminating against the LGBT community. Everyone has to decide for themselves where they feel comfortable donating and why, but given there are so many other options, I decided to leave this one out.
Helping From Afar
In addition to donating money, there are many other ways you can help out, even if you are on the other side of the planet, and even if you don’t have any money to contribute.
If you Have a Product or a Service to Auction Off
The hashtag #AuthorsForFireys is being used on twitter for creatives to incentivize donations. They are auctioning off their work, such as editing services or graphic design, or copies of books they’ve published, and donating the proceeds to the Country Fire Authority. It started out as primarily authors donating their books but has since expanded to crafters and other services.
If You’re into Crafting
Another option for creatives, if you can sew, knit, or crochet, a community of crafters have put together in-depth instructions on how to make pouches, sweaters, wraps, nests, you name it, in order to protect and better handle animals that have been put at risk by the fires.
Check the newest posts on the Facebook page for up to date information on what items are most needed. There is information in the comments of the post linked above about how to get these items where they need to be if you live outside of Australia. If you don’t use Facebook, the graphics for creating the items are available on Imgr as well but it’s a 3rd party post so they don’t include any updates or means of asking clarifying questions.
Other Ways to Help
You can also
- Sign this petition for the NSW government to provide adequate respiratory protection for firefighters
- Stimulate the local economy by visiting Buy from the Bush, where they “showcase the beautiful things available to buy from rural communities facing drought.”
If You’re Local to the Fires
While the majority of my audience is typically from the US, I’m hoping this will reach plenty of folks in Australia too! If you’re physically closer to the problem but secure in your access to resources, there’s a wider range of options for how you can help the people whose safety and wellbeing isn’t secure:
While cash is generally the most efficient means of donating, there are organizations that take donations of specific kinds of supplies.
Givit has a program where they list specific items that are needed in a short time frame, and where they are needed so that donors can be matched with specific needs in real-time. They also offer the option to donate cash.
Animal Rescue Collective has updated lists of supplies that they need donations for and where to take them as well as lots of information about community events and how to get involved in the process. Gippsland Farmer Relief is seeking donations specifically of “Non-Perishable Food Items, Toiletries, Grey Water & Environmentally Safe Cleaning Products.”
And of course, just like any disaster situation, now is a very good time to go donate blood.
Donate a Room
If you have a spare room or a living space to rent out that you can donate, there are several organizations connecting offers of spaces with people who have lost their homes. Airbnb is using their platform to enable people to donate their spaces to people affected by the fires and Find A Bed, which was created specifically in response to the fires, has a form to fill out for both people donating their space and people seeking a place to go.
Contact Your Elected Officials About Climate Change
While climate change is not the only factor involved in the crisis in Australia, it’s certainly a big one. In addition to one of the most severe incidents of what’s called “a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)” on record and the widespread impact of the weakening of the polar vortex over Antarctica, Australia has been facing extreme levels of drought, all of which are compounding on each other. From this informative article from the Scientific American:
“Southeastern Australia has been in drought since 2017. Rainfall here is normally highly variable from year to year, but there have now been three winters in a row where the winter rains failed. This is a situation that has never been seen before in the historical record of Australia’s rainfall, even during infamous decade-long droughts such as the Millennium Drought. The severity of the current drought has caused large swathes of vegetation to die. It has even dried out wet rain forests, allowing fierce fires to take hold in places that would not normally burn. The current summer has presented the perfect storm for wildfire. Long-term climate warming, combined with years of drought, colliding with a set of climate patterns that deliver severe fire weather.”
The people of Australia have become increasingly critical of their Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who they feel is putting their country at greater risk. From The New York Times’ article, “As Fires Rage, Australia Sees Its Leader as Missing in Action”:
“Mr. Morrison has minimized the connection between climate change and Australia’s extreme environmental conditions, even as the country just completed its hottest and driest year on record. He has derided calls to end coal mining as “reckless,” prioritizing economic interests and loyalty to a powerful lobby. He has opposed taxing heat-trapping emissions or taking other significant steps to reduce them, although a majority of Australians say the government should take stronger action.
But of course, we are all responsible for the health and safety of our planet, no matter what country we live in. We cannot directly impact the actions of other countries, but we can influence the actions of our own elected officials, who in turn, are in a better position to influence other people with similar levels of power.
Here’s some basic info about how to contact your representatives.
For Those in Australia
This link should help you find who your representatives are and how to contact them.
(To my Australian readers: I actively invite you to send me more resources on this topic! This branch of activism is not my specialty in my own country let alone for one I’ve never been to. I’d love tips and suggestions to add here!)
For Those in the U.S.
Basic tips: Phone calls are more effective than writing an email or a letter, contacting your state representative carries more weight than contacting DC, and the more you can personalize your message, the better. Tagging politicians on social media is largely ineffective.
- Emily Ellsworth wrote an overview of how to effectively talk to your members of Congress. This info was originally in a shared document on dropbox but she has since turned it into a full guidebook. She asks that you pay what you think it is worth and you can still receive it if you enter $0.
- Find the contact information of your representative
- Find the contact information for your senators
- Using 5calls.org makes it exceedingly easy to find the necessary contact information & they offer you sample scripts catered to the cause of your choice.
- If you are unable to make phone calls, Resistbot has many tools and lots of information to offer via text message and it’s free to use.
- If your representative is already working to address climate change, send them a thank you note so that they know you see and appreciate their actions.
Contact Me with Additional Resources
If you learn more specific information about how people in or outside of Australia can help fight the fires, please contact me at email@example.com with as much information as you have.
For the most part, I have purposefully left off listing fundraisers where the proceeds will be donated to one of the larger organizations I’ve listed because it’s more cost and time-efficient to donate directly.
I will update this article as I learn about additional existing tools.
Resources for Those Directly Impacted by the Fires
In my search for ways to help, I stumbled on a handful of good information if you yourself are in need of help:
- The Red Cross is offering emergency grants of $5,000 to people whose houses have been destroyed by the fires. You can apply here.
- You can use AirBnB’s database to help find emergency housing in Victoria.
- This hotel in Victoria is waving its rental fees for folks who’ve been displaced by the fires.
- Finder.com has a guide to buying the special masks that protect you from the hazardous air quality.
- Both Beyond Blue and Lifeline are offering mental health support by phone. You get the opportunity to talk with a trained mental health professional and they both have options for deaf callers, non-English speakers, and a real-time chat option.
- If you encounter bushfire-affected wildlife, this guide tells you what to do and what not to do.
Share This Article
If you can do nothing else, share this article with as many people as you can. The more people read it, the more likely it will find people who have resources to devote to this cause, the more likely we can have a greater impact. Last time we reached over 100,000 people.
Hit the buttons below to share this article on Facebook or twitter. Tag your friends who are likely to share it or who have large followings and can reach wide audiences.
Let’s make a difference!
Thanks to Cnet.com for providing the majority of the information on avenues for donation.
About the writer: Kella Hanna-Wayne is the creator, editor, and main writer for Yopp. In addition to creating a collection of educational resources for social justice, she works as a freelance writer specializing in content about her experience with disability, chronic illness, mental health, and trauma. Her work has been published in Ms. Magazine blog, The BeZine, Betty’s Battleground, and Splain You a Thing. You can find her @KellaHannaWayne on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Instagram.