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How to help after a disaster

It’s natural – and wonderful – to want to help people when a disaster strikes. But knowing how best to help can be difficult. So here are some tips from us to make sure your generosity goes to the right place. 

What to give

Our experience with emergencies shows that donations of money, where possible, help affected communities recover sooner.

Donations allow people affected by a disaster to:

  • make their own choices
  • purchase the goods they need for their families
  • spend the money in their local community, helping local businesses and communities to rebuild.

What to check before making a donation

  • Check the organisation is a registered charity, and has tax-deductibility status.
  • Find out how it plans to use the money. Red Cross and other reputable charities publish information on their websites explaining how funds will be used.
  • If approached by a collector, ask to see ID. If in doubt, don’t donate.

How to raise funds in your community

Thank you! Raising money in your own community is a great way to come together and support affected communities. 

Unfortunately, scams can circulate quickly after disasters so before you start, register your fundraiser with the charity so they can confirm it’s legitimate. The best way to get started with Red Cross is by registering at redcross.org.au/fundraise.

Can I volunteer to help?

What an incredibly thoughtful and kind offer. Following a disaster, many people want to give their time to help out.

Trained volunteers

Trained volunteers are best able to help affected people when an emergency strikes. We don’t send anyone into an emergency response without first completing our training and checks, and ensuring they are covered by insurance.

Think about the longer term

If you really want to help, the best time may not be right now – it may be later, when the attention and news crews have moved on but people still need support to recover. That’s often when volunteers can do the most good.

How to sign up as a volunteer

You can apply at redcross.org.au/volunteer. Remember you’ll need to do our training and checks first and so won't be sent out immediately.
There are other organisations that may look for spontaneous volunteers during a disaster. You can contact the emergency management agencies in your state or territory to find out more. They will be busy, so please wait for them to follow up with you.

Overseas disasters

Red Cross has a global network of 100 million volunteers ready to respond in their communities. We have a pool of registered, trained and skilled aid workers ready to go at all times. 

Check out opportunities with the Australian Government’s Australian Volunteers for International Development program. It's another great way to contribute overseas.

Donating food or other goods

We really appreciate the generosity, but we, like most charities, are unable to accept or distribute donated food or goods. We recommend only donating food and other items if an organisation specifically asks for them.

Why donated food and items don't help

  • They need to be collected, sorted, cleaned, stored and transported. This is costly and can mean less money available for people in need.
  • Some items may be culturally inappropriate or incorrect for the climate.
  • The recovery of local business is often key to community recovery. Local businesses recover faster when goods are purchased locally.

Other ways you can help

  • Donate clothing and small homewares to Red Cross shops. They will be sold to raise funds for our work. These goods won’t be distributed to disaster-affected communities.
  • Check out agencies like GIVIT, who match donors and recipients.
  • If you want to donate food items, visit Foodbank's website.
  • You can also have a garage sale and donate the funds to help people.

Offering your home to people 

That’s an incredibly warm-hearted offer, thank you.

We’re not able to organise home stays for people. Our focus is on helping as many people as possible to get to public evacuation and relief centres. These centres offer a safe place to sleep with emergency and psychological support on hand.

Some local authorities, businesses or groups on social media may set up accommodation services. We recommend only making an offer to them when they put a call out.

This information is general in nature and may not be appropriate in all situations. Before taking any action you should independently consider whether that action is appropriate in individual circumstances.