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How to help Australia: 5 ways to do your bit for the people, places and animals affected by Australia’s bushfires

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Lauren Geall
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People affected by the Australian bushfires

The bushfires in Australia have been raging since September 2019, and show no signs of slowing down. Here’s five ways you can help the people, animals and places affected by this disaster.

Australia is in the middle of an environmental crisis. Unless you’ve been avoiding the news completely in 2020, you’ll likely have seen the devastating images. Bushfires have been burning up and down the country since September last year – and the flames show no signs of slowing down.

So far, 24 people have lost their lives, 1,300 homes have been destroyed, and it’s estimated that a staggering 500 million animals have been killed, with the latest estimates by WWF Australia predicting that one billion animals could die as a result of the fires and the devastation they’ve left behind by the time they die down.

All in all, about six million hectares (14.8 million acres) of bush, forest and parks have been affected so far. In the worst affected state, New South Wales, the fires have destroyed more than 1,300 houses and forced many to seek emergency shelter. And the fires continue to burn as strong as ever – a senior firefighter in the region described Saturday (4 January) as “one of our worst days ever”.

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As awareness surrounding the situation in Australia continues to grow, a number of celebrities and high-profile individuals have started fundraisers and urged their followers to donate, in order to provide essential help to those currently fighting or affected by the fires. 

Among them was Australian actor Margot Robbie, who took to her Instagram to share an emotional plea to her followers. Instead of sharing photos of the fires – as many other celebrities have done in a bid to try and raise awareness – Robbie took a different approach, sharing personal photos from her childhood in rural Queensland.

Australian bushfires
How to help Australia: bushfires have devastated communities across the country.

“I’m sure you’re all aware of what is happening in Australia at the moment with the fires. I didn’t want to show you more pictures of the devastation,” she said in the IGTV video.

“This is my cousin and I out at the farm in Australia growing up… This is making mud pies,” she explained, pointing out the photos. “I wanted you to see how beautiful our country is. Because it is so beautiful. And it’s really, really hurting right now.”

While it may feel like the fires are happening in a world far, far away from our own, there are still things we can do to help those affected by the disaster. Here are all the ways you can help the fight against or provide support to the people and animals affected by the Australian bush fires. 

1. Fund local firefighting efforts

Local fire services across Australia are battling the fires on the frontlines, and are accepting donations directly so they can continue to fight the further spread of the fires. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service have their own appeal, and have also set up a separate fund for the families of the volunteer fire fighters who have been killed while on duty. 

The Country Fire Authority in Victoria is also raising funds.

Firefighter battling Australian bushfires
How to help Australia: local fire services are accepting donations to help their fight against the bushfires.

2. Help humanitarian organisations to provide essential support

Organisations such as the Australian Red Cross and The Salvation Army Australia are on the ground in Australia providing support to the firefighters and evacuees affected by the fires. They will also remain on the ground after the fires to help local communities rebuild and recover.

Donations to the Red Cross will help their teams to respond to the emergencies by supporting the thousands of people currently in evacuation centres and recovery hubs across Australia, and will help them to continue their Register.Find.Unite service which helps to reconnect families separated during the crisis.

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The Salvation Army is also on the ground providing essential support to the firefighters providing the frontline response and evacuees in the form of meals and support. 

3. Donate to the wildlife rescue appeals

The New South Wales RSPCA is currently working to protect the pets, livestock and wildlife threatened by the fires, and will work to enter already affected areas once the fires have died down to save and treat any surviving animals. Donations to their appeal will fund this work.

WIRES wildlife rescue are also rescuing and providing urgent care to animals across the country – you can donate to their fundraiser here.

A kangaroo in the Australian bushfires
How to help Australia: donate to organisations funding emergency veterinary care to animals caught up in the fires.

4. Donate to recovery efforts

While an end to the fires is not currently in sight, recovery efforts will play an important part in helping those affected by the fires to rebuild their lives.

The St Vincent de Paul society is raising funds to help evacuees who have been forced to flee because of the fires, as well as helping those whose homes have been completely destroyed. They can help families with meals, unexpected bills and expenses and clothing, as well as providing bedding, furniture and appliances. 

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A GoFundMe has also been set up to help those from First Nations communities to recover from the fires. The money from the fundraiser will work to provide culturally sensitive, specific direct support to the people affected.

5. Fund support for endangered koalas

Over 480 million animals are believed to have been killed in the fires so far, including endangered koalas. Current estimates predict koalas will be extinct in New South Wales and southeast Queensland as early as 2050 – and the current bushfires aren’t doing anything to help that estimate. Koalas are at risk during the bushfires because they move slowly and are unable to escape the rapidly spreading flames.

Koala receiving treatment
How to help Australia: a Koala receiving treatment at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

Donations to the WWF Australia appeal will help the organisation to provide emergency care to the koalas affected by the fires and work to rebuild their habitat after the fires leave.

You can also donate to this appeal set up by the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, who have been searching the Koala habitats in the Port Macquarie areas to rescue Koalas who are in harms way. When they first set up their appeal, they had a target of $25000 AUD – they have currently raised over four million.

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