Australia

Australian Bushfires: Here’s What You Can Do To Help

This past weekend, the whole world finally heard about the devastating bushfires that have been ravaging Australia for the past 3 months.

To be fair, bushfires are a pretty normal occurrence in this country during summer (we call it “fire season”). Every year there’s preventative backburning done and fire bans enforced to prevent them, which typically keeps the bushfires to a minimum (relatively speaking) and thus, you don’t hear much about them.

But this year it wasn’t enough. This year, a perfect storm of variables aligning led to bushfires burning out of control. Blame it on climate change, blame it on a shoddy government, blame it on the weather gods denying us of rain for so long – whatever you blame, it doesn’t change the fact that AUSTRALIA IS ON FIRE. Like literally.

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

Photo Credit: Mark Pardew via The Guardian.

Animals are dying, homes are going up in flames, communities are being evacuated, people are fleeing to shelters, fire fighters are risking their health and safety. It’s an absolute nightmare here in certain parts of the country.

The worst damage seems to be in New South Wales (NSW). Thankfully we Sydneysiders are safe for the time being, but we’ve been feeling the effects of nearby bushfires for nearly 2 months now. There have been days where Sydney’s air quality has been worse than India’s. The other day, Canberra was said to have the worst air quality in the WORLD.

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

I’ve really been feeling it in my eyes more than anything – on especially bad/windy days, my eyes will feel very… tired. And a bit irritated. I notice tiny black particles accumulating on my white desk when I leave the window next to it open. Some mornings I wake up to my apartment smelling like bushfire. Some days it’s so hazy you can barely see the horizon. We’re lucky if it’s even a slightly blue sky.

I’m normally a very upbeat person, but this has all been making me feel so down. And then I feel bad about feeling bad because other people in this country are experiencing it a million times worse than we are here.

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

Mackenzies Bay in Sydney, before and after the bushfire crisis began.

The bad news is that the bushfires are probably not going to end anytime soon. Summer has only just begun and it’s said that the worst is yet to come. I’m terrified to see what happens next.

The good news is that people are finally waking the f up and realizing how serious this climate change thing really is. It’s not unlike the awakening and activism that was spurred by the election of Donald Trump a few years back (which some might say was equally apocalyptic). Yeah it sucked, it was scary, it was absolutely demoralizing – but we grew our collective consciousness as a result.

We realized that we had to change our ways (namely our voting ways) so that someone like this never becomes the leader of America again.

I feel like a similar awakening will happen in Australia. It’s been incredible just to see people banding together to help in any way they can.

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

On that note, I wanted to put together a post with a bunch of ideas for how you can help with Australia’s bushfire crisis. If you’re not in Australia currently, there are plenty of causes you can donate to to help the injured wildlife, the communities that have lost their homes and have had to evacuate, and the courageous firefighters.

Remember: EVERY LITTLE THING COUNTS. Every dollar donated helps. Every action matters.

Will you join me in committing to doing at least one thing on the list below?

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

Photo credit: Hicks Beef via The Weekly Times.

Where to donate for bushfire relief

If you want to help, the best and easiest thing you can do is donate to a bushfire relief fund. All money raised is used to buy supplies and provide medical treatment to animals and humans affected by the bushfires.

There’s an overwhelming number of fundraisers and nonprofits out there that are seeking donations. If you’re like, JUST TELL ME WHERE TO DONATE AND I’LL DO IT RIGHT NOW, the two main and arguably most legit organizations you can donate to are Wires (money going toward wildlife rescue in NSW) and the Australian Red Cross (supporting communities affected by the bushfires).

I’ve sifted through dozens of fundraisers and organizations to come up with a legit list of places you can donate to and know that your money is going to be used to make a real difference. These can be easily found in the orange boxes below.

I encourage you to browse the lists below and donate to whichever cause pulls at your heart strings the most. For me, my donations are being split between the koala rescue funds. Maybe for you, you’d prefer your donation to go toward ALL affected wildlife, or you might want to donate money to support the underfunded and overworked fire fighters. Or you can opt to help the people seeking shelter at evacuation centers, many of which have lost their homes and belongings to the fires.

No one choice is better than another, so do what feels right to you! And every little bit helps, so donate a little or as much as you can (PS – most donations are tax deductible!).

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

A burnt koala getting rehabbed at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

Wildlife

If you’re an animal lover and want to help save Australia’s native wildlife, you can donate to the organizations below. At this point, about half a billion animals are said to have died in the bushfires. Australia’s ecosystem is forever changed because of this, and it’s frightening to think about what it will look like if wildlife continues to perish.

I included a special section just for koalas because it’s been said that they are now “functionally extinct” after a large percentage of their population has perished from these bushfires (not to mention they’ve lost 80% of their habitat). Not that any animal is worth saving over another, but gosh – can you imagine Australia without any koalas? It would be the saddest thing. Also, koalas are insanely adorable, and I just don’t want to imagine a world without them.

Koalas:

  • Port Macquarie Koala Hospital (NSW)
  • Adopt a koala (NSW) – adoption fee goes toward treating injured koalas at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital (includes 2 koalas burned in the bushfires)
  • Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park (SA) – money from this GoFundMe is going to help build the infrastructure that’s needed to treat as many of the injured animals as possible (I’ve actually seen koalas in the wild on the part of the island that’s been burned and it kills me to think of them suffering or worse)
  • Koala Rescue Queensland

All Wildlife:

  • SAVEM (SA Vet Emergency) – though they don’t have a bushfire-specific fundraiser set up, this is the best way to help injured animals in South Australia

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

The koalas I saw in the wild on Kangaroo Island.

Communities & Evacuation Centers

If you want your money to go toward helping people who have been directly affected by the bushfires, the organizations below are raising funds to run evacuation centers and recovery programs, and to distribute to families who have lost nearly everything they own in the fires.

Note that there are also GoFundMes that have been set up to help specific communities in Australia. I’m not including them here because they’re not being run by nonprofits but rather individuals, and I can’t verify whether they’re legit. So just be cautious about where you donate and make sure it’s to a verified organization!

If you prefer to donate goods rather than money, there are Givit accounts set up for NSW and Queensland listing out specific items needed that can be dropped off locally. Think food vouchers, tools, clothing, pumps, and tanks.

I know that in some Sydney suburbs, people are organizing drop offs for non-perishable food and clothing which will be taken to evacuation centers on the South Coast. If you live in Australia, keep an eye out on social media for announcements for any collections that might be happening near you.

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

People evacuating on the NSW South Coast. Photo credit: Andrew Quilty via The Guardian.

Fire Fighters

And lastly, let’s not forget about the unsung heroes through all of this: the fire fighters that are volunteering their time and risking their health and safety to save the country. They are severely underfunded and could greatly benefit from our donations.

Aussie comedian Celeste Barber just started a fundraiser on Facebook to raise money for the NSW Rural Fire Service that went viral and managed to pull in nearly $30 million in 2 days. How incredible is that!

To put that amount into perspective, apparently $4 million would be enough to buy 40,000 masks for the fire fighters (enough for half of the fire fighters in NSW), which would keep them safe from inhaling toxic cancer-causing fumes from the fires.

If you’d love to help keep the Aussie fire fighters safe and able to keep fighting these bushfires, here are some options:

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

Other things you can do to help (esp if you live in Australia)

For my fellow Aussie dwellers and/or folks that can’t afford to make a donation right now, there’s still plenty you can do to help support our communities and prevent this level of bushfire destruction from ever happening again.

Protest

One way to have your voice heard, let out your frustrations, and band together with others who feel similarly is to PROTEST. Those in power in Australia seem not to give a rat’s ass about climate change, so protesting can help get their attention.

  • Friday Jan 10, 5:30pm – Sydney Town Hall
  • Friday Jan 10, 6-8pm – Melbourne, State Library of Victoria
  • Tuesday Feb 4, 8am – Canberra, by the steps of the Parliament House 

Write a letter to the government

One thing I learned when studying for my Australian citizenship test is that citizens are able and encouraged to write a letter to their member of Parliament with any concerns they have or any issues they want brought up in government. If you’re Australian, now is the PERFECT time to let your MP know that you’re concerned about the bushfires and about climate change not being taken seriously in this country.

There’s a really great IGTV video where this process is explained in such an easy-to-understand way, and an accompanying letter template you can fill in and send to your member of Parliament. Your MP depends on where you live – find out who yours is via this website.

This is super quick and easy to do if you use that template, so DO IT – no excuses!

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

Locals escaping the bushfires on the South Coast of NSW. Photo credit: Alex Coppel via Fox Sports.

Vote

If you’re an Australian citizen, then this is a great opportunity to start taking the elections more seriously.

For those who don’t know, Aussies are actually required to vote and get fined if they don’t – and I know there are loads of people who just vote for whoever without taking the time to educate themselves on the candidates and what they stand for (I’m guilty of this with US elections myself).

So let this be your reason to start caring about elections. Vote for candidates who prioritize the environment and take climate change seriously. You have my word that I’ll be doing exactly this as soon as my Australian citizenship comes through later this year.

Be mindful of your consumption

This is something you should do all the time, no matter where you are in the world, but it’s especially pertinent now. Be mindful of everything you consume: recycle, conserve water, minimize single-use plastic use, don’t buy things you don’t need or that won’t last long.

Bonus points for making up for other people not doing this and picking up trash you find on the ground.

Maybe this won’t directly help the bushfire situation, but it’s helping protect and preserve Mother Earth in general. And isn’t that the bottom line here?

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

Photo via MSNews.

Stay fire safe and aware

If you’re traveling in Australia at the moment, keep an eye on the bushfire situation and stay safe. Bookmark Fires Near Me or download an app for your phone so you know what areas to avoid while you’re on the road.

How is this helping, you might ask? Well, if you avoid getting stuck in towns that are having to evacuate, you’re saving resources for the locals who have to stay there.

Leave water out for wildlife

If it’s not uncommon to spot wildlife around your home, leave out some shallow water containers for them to drink from. They are desperate for water because of the draught.

explore, travel, australian bushfires: here’s what you can do to help

Travel local

Rather than traveling overseas, consider spending your holiday money locally in one of Australia’s fire-affected areas (once it’s safe to be there, of course). Local businesses are taking a huge hit while these bushfires wreak havoc and they will need the extra money to make up for the loss (or repair any damage caused by the fires).

Not traveling anytime soon? Consider a weekend getaway if you’re within driving distance of an affected area.

Share this post

And finally, please share this post with your friends, family, and networks and make it easy for them to see exactly how they can donate money and help with the bushfire crisis in Australia.

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