Strength and solidarity during difficult times
It’s been a tough start to the new year. You’ll have seen the extent of the bushfires burning across our country. Unfortunately some of you may be experiencing it first hand or know someone who’s directly impacted by the fires.
Lives, homes, wildlife and agriculture have been lost. The road to recovery is long and we’ll continue to support the people affected by being on the ground and being there to provide support where it’s needed most.
The support we’ve received from Australians, our partners and supporters, and endorsements from home and across the globe has been incredible. The ABC held a special donation drive for communities affected by disasters in its New Year’s Eve national broadcast which ran till 4 January. A total of $13.3 million was raised in that time, with funds continuing to come in we are now at over $43 million.
The donations will go to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery fund supporting the work we're doing now, supporting communities in long term recovery and ensuring Red Cross is there for disasters we sadly know will come in the months ahead. What an incredible show of solidarity and support.
We will continue to scale up our support to communities impacted by bushfires, including payments of emergency grants to people whose primary place of residence has been destroyed or made uninhabitable by the fires since July 2019. The grants of $5,000 are available to help bushfire-affected people to meet basic recovery needs. We will announce further measures of support as we become clearer about the needs going forward. We will also be coordinating with other organisations and government agencies to ensure support is provided where it’s needed most.
Visits to Bairnsdale, Mt Barker and Lobethal
On 3 January I visited the Bairnsdale Relief Centre in Victoria with Ross Pinney (our President) and Anne MacArthur (VIC DAB Chair). We were there to offer our support to our volunteers and to hear about their experience delivering aid and assistance to people impacted by the fires.
The Governor-General of Australia and Patron of Australian Red Cross His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (retired) was also on the ground in Bairnsdale on Sunday showing support for volunteers and people affected by the bushfires.
Bairnsdale is one of the 14 emergency relief centres opened in Victoria. As of Saturday 4 January, over 243 Red Cross personnel have delivered psychological first aid (PFA), registration services and other relief services through emergency relief centres and the operations centre across the state. Red Cross personnel provided meet and greet and PFA for people evacuated by air and sea.
In SA, Ross and the Governor General spent some time at the Lobethal Recovery Hub (pictured on the left) speaking with volunteers on the ground. Ross also dropped by Mt Barker Relief Centre yesterday where Red Cross personnel are providing meet and greet, PFA and Register.Find.Reunite. (Pictured on the right) Ross was joined by Rose Rhodes PSM (Chair, SA DAB) Catherine Maynard (Manager, Child Safety), Jai O’Toole (Manager, Migration, Emergencies and Service Development) and Red Cross volunteers "Team Pulford" (Rosemary and Graeme Pulford).
Our work on the ground
Since July last year, Red Cross teams have responded to 30 emergencies, and supported over 18,600 people, through the efforts of more than 1,590 volunteers and staff.
In NSW, close to 400 Red Cross people have provided support in more than 87 evacuation centres since the bushfire emergency began. In South Australia, over 200 Red Cross people have been supporting in evacuation centres, providing psychological first aid, registration services and telephone welfare checks to over 1,050 affected people.
Our people have provided psychological first aid to evacuees and registered them so their loved ones know they are safe. Register.Find.Reunite. remains open for multiple fires with over 14,500 registrations, 4,114 enquiries and 160 matches recorded in total across NSW.
We are working closely with the NSW State Government to plan an extensive recovery program. There are already four specialist recovery workers in the most affected areas to understand community recovery needs.
In South Australia, over 200 Red Cross people have been supporting across the relief centres there, providing psychological first aid, registration services and telephone welfare checks to over 1,050 affected people, including 500 people sheltering in Kingscote on Kangaroo Island. Teams of volunteers are also attending community meetings in affected areas in SA, providing psychological first aid and support to people.
We continue to assist the community of Mallacoota in Victoria, with trained volunteers rostered in waves for the next two weeks, providing psychosocial and registration services, as well as providing food and water services at all emergency relief centres.
Food hampers, water pallets, hygiene items and pet supplies are also being arranged to be trucked in by the military from Foodbank to East Sale for rapid distribution to communities in need.
We’re also reaching out to isolated communities in Victoria. We're working with Police to assist 18 Victorian communities isolated due to power issues in East Gippsland, distributing satellite phones. We are accepting calls from those communities and establishing the emergency relief requirements in those locations.
In WA as Red Cross people reach out to stranded travelers on the Eyre Highway and make outreach visits to heat and fire impacted communities, our Emergency Services teams are also monitoring Tropical Cyclone Blake. Even as new emergencies unfold we are beginning the long road to recovery, sharing resources to support people as they start their recovery and working with governments in every state impacted to establish long term needs.
And amongst the day to day relief and recovery work, we are also thinking about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples whose lands are impacted by the fires. Ben Clark (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Project Lead) has been collecting donations and working closely with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc (VAEAI) to support First Nations communities. I encourage you to speak with your state or territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership team to understand how best you can assist.
Thank you for your support while we continue helping the people affected by the bushfires. To keep up to date with our work, here are some stories from the ground, you can also learn more about the emergency grants and see what we've been tweeting.
We are sadly aware some of our people have been directly impacted and we’re providing support where we can. Wherever you are, please take care – physically, emotionally and mentally. Stay informed by getting updates from your local RFS or CFA.
Take care and stay safe,
Judy and Noel