How you can volunteer during the Australian bushfire crisis

Posted: 7 January 2020 5:21 pm
News

Close up of a joey (a baby kangaroo) held in someone's hands.

Beyond financial donations, what else can you do to help those affected by bushfires around Australia?

Right now, monetary donations are a priority for most volunteer and support services that are helping those affected by the bushfires.

This is because money can be put to use straight away by organisations, such as the Red Cross, WIRES (NSW Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc) and volunteer firefighting services across each affected state and territory, without them needing to spend time on logistics or management tasks.

Other types of support may take a lot longer to process – including donating items or becoming a volunteer (which often requires weeks or months of training).

But if you are unable to offer money to support these organisations, you may be able to volunteer with them now or in the months to come. There are also many other ways you could offer hands-on support.

The scale of this crisis is overwhelming, so it can be hard to know what any individual can do to help. With that in mind, we have compiled details of organisations you may want to volunteer with – as well as provide other ideas that could help you volunteer your time or donate goods to help those affected by the bushfires.

Volunteer opportunities

BlazeAid

This is a volunteer organisation and charity in rural Australia that helps to rebuild fences and other damaged structures on farms after natural disasters.

  • Volunteer at a camp by registering a few days in advance via phone or email. If you cannot do fencing work, you can volunteer by cleaning, catering, organising tools, etc.

The Red Cross

The Red Cross is dedicated to voluntary service, providing disaster relief, protecting vulnerable people, championing peace and collecting blood donations. Red Cross volunteers welcome people at evacuation centres, visit people's homes after disasters to check on them and provide support. It also registers people to help them find their loved ones and more.

Foodbank Australia

Foodbank provides rescued food for more than 2,600 charity partners across every state in Australia.

  • At this time, Foodbank is not calling out for volunteers. However, you can register your interest on the website to be informed of upcoming opportunities via email.
  • You can make individual food donations to your local Foodbank or sign up to do a Food Drive and collect essentials from your local area. Visit the Foodbank website for full details, including the strict requirements and what types of foods are accepted – and what items are in demand for your state or territory.
  • If you do not have the cash yourself, you can always choose to fundraise for a cause you care about. Foodbank has some fundraising ideas on its website.

Organic & Regenerative Investment Co-operative

To help certified organic farmers and producers affected by the bushfires.

  • Whether or not you want to get your hands dirty, you can register to
    volunteer
    .

Findabed.info

Find A Bed was born out of necessity by the bushfire crisis. It gathers requests from people who need a place to stay and connects them with a suitable match for free accommodation based on location, accessibility and the ability to accept animals, etc.

  • Register a spare room or property to provide accommodation for bushfire evacuees (both people and pets). Find A Bed will match you with someone in need and connect you via phone before you formally offer accommodation.

FareShare

FareShare cooks free, nutritious meals for those in need from food that would have otherwise gone to waste. It currently operates in Brisbane and Melbourne and provides around 12,000 free meals per day to Australians experiencing food insecurity.

  • Register to volunteer in Melbourne, with opportunities including helping in the kitchen, kitchen garden, warehouse, office or on the road.
  • Volunteer in the Brisbane kitchen, warehouse or office.

St Vincent de Paul Society

The St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies) is a Catholic organisation that works to combat social injustice and inequality in Australia by helping those in need.

  • Sign-up to volunteer on the website. There are many positions and opportunities available across the country.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army (the Salvos) is a Christian organisation that provides a wide range of services to those in need across Australia.

You can find volunteer opportunities on the Salvation Army website.

Samaritan's Purse

Samaritan's Purse is a Christian organisation that provides disaster relief, education, health and nutrition, water sanitation and more both in Australia and around the world. With respect to the bushfires, it deploys staff, volunteers and equipment to provide support and recovery assistance to those affected.

  • Agree to abide by the Statement of Faith and register to volunteer with Samaritan's Purse for Australian Disaster Relief

Anglicare Sydney

Anglicare is a Christian not-for-profit organisation that supports home care, counselling, mental health support, disaster recovery and more. It is an Australia-wide network that operates locally and on a national level.

  • To volunteer for Disaster Recovery in NSW, you can express your interest online. You'll need to do one day of training, have a NSW Police Check and Working with Children Check.
  • To find other opportunities, you can visit the Anglicare Australia website.

Support for animals

If you're passionate about helping our furry friends, below are some of the organisations directly related to animal welfare for which you can volunteer. These all require an application and training or orientation before you can volunteer with the wildlife.

WIRES (NSW)

  • To volunteer with WIRES, you must attend a training course to get licensed. The course costs $125 per person and you can see the current schedule of training courses online.
  • WIRES carers also need pouches for joeys, possums and other rescued animals. So if you're crafty, you can make them using the patterns and guidelines on the WIRES website.

Wildlife Victoria (VIC)

  • To volunteer with Wildlife Victoria, you can apply online. You must be able to commit at least 8 hours per week for 12 months, be at least 18 years of age and have a valid Victorian driver's licence.

Wildcare Australia (QLD)

  • If you want to volunteer as a carer for Wildcare, you can apply to be a member. You'll need to attend an orientation and training workshop to be included on the Rescue List.

ACT Wildlife (ACT)

Fauna Rescue (SA)

You can apply online to become a member of Fauna Rescue. You'll need to complete a police check and attend a training session as well as pay a membership fee.

Animal Rescue Craft Guild

This Facebook group offers patterns for knitting and sewing items for animal rescue services, such as gloves for burned koalas and pouches for joeys. You can post your finished items to the group, who will then distribute them to animal organisations and shelters that need them. If you want to offer your help creating items, start with this post.

Other ways you could help

Be proactive on social media

Spread the word so that others can help or stay updated on the latest developments. You may like to share some of the following information:

  • Donation pages and campaigns. Not everyone is in a position to offer financial donations, but sharing the information can help connect those who can with the organisations that need funds. Check out Finder's guide for a summary of different options.
  • Smoke and air pollution details. Sharing information about air quality could help people stay as protected as possible. The World Air Quality Index Project has a map showing air quality around Australia, while the Bureau of Meteorology also has a page with resources for specific regions in Australia. If you know people in affected areas, you may also want to share this guide on how to properly fit and wear a P2 mask.
  • Mental health resources. The impact of the bushfires could be felt in many ways. Beyond Blue has put together some information on looking after your mental health and wellbeing after a disaster. Sharing this could help someone processing their experiences. If you know someone who may need urgent help, you could also share the contact numbers for Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) or Lifeline (13 11 14).

If you have friends and family in the affected areas, you could also put out a post asking if there is anything you can do.

Ask community groups what they need

If you're in or near an area affected by the bushfires and want to help, reach out to local organisations and community groups to see what's happening and who needs help. In some cases, requests may be too small or specific for larger organisations to offer help. For example, someone who has lost a car to the fires might need a lift to a nearby doctor.

Local papers, community radio stations, notice boards around town and even Facebook groups are all great resources for putting you in touch with people in these communities so that you can offer help when it's needed.

Set up a fundraiser

If there is a particular cause you want to support, you could set up your own fundraiser online through a platform such as Everyday Hero, JustGiving or mycause. You could also talk to your colleagues or workplace about setting up a donations channel or other team effort, depending on your circumstances.

If you're connected with a lot of like-minded people, you may even want to host a fundraising event. This could be a morning tea, picnic, art event, community performance or party where you collect donations. If you're collecting cash, you could donate it in-person at the following locations:

  • Woolworths stores: Donations go to the Salvation Army
  • Vinnies stores: Donations go to the St Vincent de Paul Society
  • NAB branches: Donations go to the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund
  • Bendigo Bank branches: Donations go to the Victorian Bushfire Disaster Appeal

Alternatively, you could deposit the funds and donate them online to a specific cause.

Host a garage sale to raise funds

If you have things lying around the home and don't need them anymore, you could have a garage sale and donate the money you get directly to an organisation that's helping people affected by the fires.

If you live in an apartment or just don't have time to organise a full-blown garage sale, you could sell your items on websites such as Gumtree or eBay instead.

Donate items or services through GIVIT

This organisation connects people who need items or help with those who can offer donations. Keep in mind that the requests are typically for practical items such as fence posts, car batteries, heavy-duty 12-volt batteries and sheds. There is also one request from QLD for support to put up fencing – and more requests are likely to come in as the crisis continues.

If you've got some extra credit card reward points in your balance, all of the major programs allow you to redeem them for charity donations. We have a comprehensive guide on which programs work with which charities and how much your points are worth. Some of the partnered charities include the Australian Red Cross, WWF Australia and The Salvation Army. With redemptions as low as $10 available for some programs, it's a great way to clear that small balance that you haven't been able to use and redeem your points for a good cause.

Shop with businesses affected by the bushfires

The impact of the bushfires extends to local business owners from all kinds of industries. This guide lists businesses that have been affected so that you can show support by shopping with them when there are items that you need.

This crisis is ongoing and the impact will be felt for months, so there may be scope to volunteer in other ways in the weeks to come. Follow the organisations that are offering support on social media and register your interest with any that are active in your area.

Remember: help can come in many forms. Whether you share some information online, ask a charity how you can help or reach out to a friend in an affected area, it can all make a difference.

Keep up with our Australian bushfires coverage

Resources for those impacted by the Australian bushfires

Picture: Getty Images

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