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It’s with a heavy heart that Kiwis are watching our Australian neighbours from across the ditch as they face an unprecedented fire season. Fires have burnt more than five million hectares of land and destroyed hundreds of properties, prompting entire communities to flee, taking away 23 lives and killing almost half a billion animals.
Our colleagues at Australian Red Cross have been supporting people affected by the bushfires right from the start. Specialist Red Cross personnel and volunteers have been on the ground, assisting impacted communities across the country. In Victoria, 243 people have been delivering psychological first aid, registration services and other relief services through emergency relief centres and the operations centre. In New South Wales, close to 400 Red Cross personnel have supported across more than 87 evacuation centres since the bushfire emergency began. In South Australia, more than 200 Red Cross personnel have been providing psychological first aid, registration services and telephone welfare checks to more than 1,050 affected people.
From 6 January, Australian Red Cross will be providing Emergency Grants to people who have lost their homes to the bushfires across Australia, allowing them to purchase what they need most. In turn, local businesses will start to recover too.
I have lost contact with a family member
Putting survivors in touch with loved ones is important for their recovery. Australian Red Cross has opened Register.Find.Reunite for Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia to help people get in touch with their loved ones. So far more than 30,000 people have registered with the service as being safe, and 5,000 enquiries about potentially missing loved ones has been made. Anyone who wants to check if family and friends are safe, or anyone who has been affected by the bushfires and wants to let people know they are okay can visit www.register.redcross.org.au.
How can Kiwis help?
The catastrophic Australian bushfires are affecting many of us in New Zealand, prompting a sense of helplessness as we watch from afar. There are however different ways we can support our neighbours:
- You can donate to Australian Red Cross’ Disaster Relief and Recovery work here. Donations support Australian Red Cross’ emergency teams in Australia and further afield, including those who are currently responding to the current bushfires and heatwaves, as well as disasters that are yet to come. It enables Red Cross to give people the support they need in disasters: whether that’s help to prepare, a safe place to take shelter, psychological first aid, information and practical support through the months and even years it can take to recover.
- We understand that not everyone is able to donate financially. People are welcome to organise a fundraising event (a garage sale, bake sale, movie night, etc.) and donate the proceeds to Australian Red Cross. Encourage your friends and family to do the same!
New Zealand Red Cross is not collecting goods to send to Australia to support people affected by the bushfires. Collecting, storing and shipping donated goods takes time and can clog up ports or logistic chains, meaning that relief items take longer to reach people in need.We also know that an effective way to aid recovery is by restoring livelihoods and local economic activity, which is why cash grants can be extremely useful. Cash promotes independence and recognises the capacity of affected communities to make decisions. People can donate directly to support the work of Australian Red Cross here. In Australia, Australian Red Cross is not collecting items either. They encourage people to donate cash, organise a fundraising event or volunteer as an emergency response volunteer.
Journalists wanting to cover Red Cross’ response to the bushfires or get more information can do so by calling Australian Red Cross’ on-call media officer on +61 2 8265 3074 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.