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Hope from the ashes

Meet some of the people you’ve helped get back on their feet after the bushfires.

Thank you, from more than 5,800 bushfire survivors

Every day, in so many ways, people tell us how your donations, in enabling our bushfire grants, have helped them to make the choices that are right for their recovery.

You have helped them replace precious things, make repairs to their homes, cover out-of-pocket funeral or hospital costs, or re-establish a safe place to live. You have been a light in so many people’s lives, lifting a heavy weight off their shoulders in the face of utter devastation.

We are humbled and grateful for the generous contributions of so many thousands of people, community groups and companies that have made this critical support possible. For more information on our progress, the challenges we faced, and the many ways you’ve helped, please find our 6-month report now online. 

In the meantime, here are just a handful of stories from the people you’ve helped.

Norelle and David, Nymboida NSW

“I’m not going to say we haven’t been shell-shocked and really sad, but we have such amazing support. The community, the charitable organisations, and Red Cross has been truly amazing.”

Norelle and David, who lost their dream home in Nymboida to the bushfires, replanted their vegetable garden as the first step to rebuilding. Supported by grants from Red Cross, they gradually replaced furniture and treasured items. Six months after the fire, the foundations for the couple’s new home have gone in.

“Just to have the money for that, to know that there’s going to be something nice to put into the house, it’s like having that lovely happy ending.”

Peter, Kangaroo Island SA

“We applied for the online grant and that came through a few days later. And then the second payment came through as well. So that has been an amazing help for us. We lost everything and we’re trying to replace it all from the ground up, and just realising all the things we’ve lost as we go along. That money’s been absolutely critical.”

Peter and his wife Nirbeeja’s property on Kangaroo Island was more than a home, it was a sanctuary - for them, and for thousands of wildlife. On January 3, their property was completely destroyed but just a matter of weeks after the devastation, their grants from Red Cross meant they could start to replace what they’ve lost. Food, fuel, tools to start the immense job of cleaning up, a new printer to help them keep track of their paperwork.

“It gave us some hope. When you’ve lost everything it’s amazing just to have something there that helps. It gives you something to be able to lean on.”

When we go through rough patches in life, it is the kindness of other people that allows you to manage. Red Cross harnessed the kindness of Australians.

Annie, Rosedale NSW

Annie, Rosedale NSW

“The first lot of money was a substantial amount. When you’ve lost everything, to get something, gives you the confidence to get the clothes, shoes, toiletries, the essentials you need.  It gave me a nest egg to draw on when you need it to get through, with all the incidental costs that come up.”

Annie says it wasn’t just the money that made a difference, it was the Red Cross people at the evacuation centres, who comforted, sat down with her, got her details and said ‘How can we help?’ 

Howard, Wandella NSW

“About four or five days [after I applied] I got an email and it said that your grant has been deposited into your bank account. I couldn’t believe the amount that came through and I was gobsmacked and that’s because of the extraordinary generosity of the Australian community.

"It’s an enormous sum of money. It’s more than an enough to give us a start. 

"We will go beyond a start. We can replace other things that maybe, would have been further down the track had there been less money coming forward.” 

Melissa, Sarsfield VIC

“First the drought, then the complete loss of home, farm and livelihood, and now the pandemic. We have been affected by all three (most significantly the bushfire, a total loss of everything) and while there has been criticism of aid agencies at times… the Australian Red Cross’s assistance has been nothing short of life-saving. 

“Thanks to you and your grant, we can move forward with a measure of confidence and optimism, knowing we can begin planning our rebuild, even before insurance is finalised. We have a very long way to go yet, but I really do want to thank all of you - and all the people around the country and around the world - who donated (ironically I was one before Christmas!). These donations have made their way to us and they have helped us to make some sense of our days going forward and given us a measure of security in a completely deconstructed new world.”

To say thank you … is putting it mildly. What a blessing!!!! You have more than made my day.

Wilma, Qaama NSW

Wilma, Qaama NSW

“Today we went and paid for three new water tanks, coming to a total of $5,095. I then went to the Commonwealth Bank and imagine my joy when there was the deposit of $5,000 from Red Cross. To say THANK YOU… is putting it mildly.”

Wilma is a volunteer with the Cobargo branch of Red Cross. Having received our residence repair grant, she says she will continue that work with the branch “with a bounce in my step.”

Sherrie, Mogo NSW

“The fire knocked me down, but I’m up and I’m walking now. The journey that we’re on isn’t going to be over in 6 months, or 12 months. It’s a long journey, but we’re going to walk together.”

Last summer’s bushfire destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses in Mogo, NSW. It burnt across most of Sherrie’s garden, destroying a caravan and chicken coop, but somehow skipped her wooden house.
Red Cross grants enabled Sherrie to replace mattresses, bedding and clothing, and even helped with a special family dinner for her son’s 21st birthday.
As they pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the fire, Sherrie, a proud Walbunja Yuin woman, says her family gives her strength.

“I'm really proud of how my family has come together, the closeness and the bond. Everyone’s stuck together.”
 

Jack and Swampy, Wandella NSW

“Red Cross kept in touch and it wasn’t just the initial money that was offered – it ended up being doubled which is amazing.”

Jack’s family lost their home and almost everything they owned on December 30th 2019. They managed to escape with their lives and a few treasured possessions. 

Moving from place to place in search of safety, they eventually made their way to the bushfire relief centre where Red Cross was there to help. There, they applied for a Red Cross grant, which helped them get back on their feet and start to move forward.

“The power of giving has been pretty strong. Red Cross were helpful beyond point. It can restore your faith in humanity.”

Susan, Mogendoura NSW

Susan was forced to evacuate numerous times before bushfires in late January 2019 destroyed her home. Exhausted, she turned to Red Cross for help, applying for one of our emergency grants.

“The first one was $10,000 and I thought that was pretty good. And then within a week someone phoned me from Red Cross to say we’re doubling that grant, and you don’t need to do anything – so that was amazing.”

Susan decided to camp on her land for the next six months while she figured out what she was going to do next. 

“It takes longer for all the decisions and all the small things. The giving and the kindness has been amazing. It really lifted my heart to know I was getting this support and was going to be able to go ahead more easily.”

Marilyn, Mogo NSW

“We have been shown such good fortune through the kindness of others. It just changes everything.”

Marilyn’s family had only lived in their home for 12 months before last summer’s bushfires destroyed it. She left first with the kids and dogs, her husband Tim stayed to set the irrigation, and followed just 30 minutes later. By the time he left he was driving through fire. Marilyn says that wait was like being on tenterhooks.

When they discovered their house had been destroyed they applied for a Red Cross emergency grant. 

“It was just brilliant, it helped us get set up. We were able to build temporary accommodation to get us back home and living comfortably while we wait to rebuild. It was just the best feeling to come home.”

Keith, Mogo NSW

After last summer’s bushfires left Mogo, NSW devastated, Yuin man Keith swung into action, helping set up a relief and recovery hub at the Boomerang centre, run by Aboriginal people providing relief and distribution of goods to help the wider community. 

“We had the Islamic community, Red Cross, a number of people come and support us. We couldn’t have done it by ourselves. Thank you to the Red Cross for coming to our assistance, our aid.”

Keith was also able to apply for a Red Cross emergency grant that helped him replace the things he lost in the fires, such as bedding and machinery. 

Moving forward, Keith’s hope is that Aboriginal knowledge of country and practices such as cultural burning will stop another catastrophe like this from happening again. 

“Cultural burning if it is allowed serves a lot of purposes. Birds, witchetty grubs, kangaroos, possums, bilbies. If we’re allowed to do our cultural burns at the right time, when we see suitable, all those things could be reserved.”

Useful information

Apply for a bushfire grant

See what grants are available.

How we’re using funds

Our plan to help people and communities recover well.

Bushfire stories

Meet the people you’ve supported.

Royal Commission submission

Read our voluntary submission to the Natural Disasters Royal Commission.

COVID-19 and our response
We’re still paying grants every day, working remotely. We’re also providing psychological first aid and other support by phone, and supporting partner agencies through webinars. And as restrictions ease, we're resuming out community outreach where it's safe to do so.