Australian Fires - Volunteering - Here's how you can help

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As many of our fellow Australians and their communities continue to be impacted by the devastating fires and begin to adjust to the reality of their loss and long road to recovery and regrowth, we thank you for your concern and care. Our hearts and thoughts continue to go out to everyone affected. We are grateful to the thousands of dedicated, highly trained emergency services personnel working tirelessly to respond to these disasters as well as the countless volunteers and Australian and international Defence Force personnel working to support recovery efforts.

If you are in a fire-affected area please look after the safety of yourself and your family, friends, neighbours and local community first. 

At this time the best action you can take is to stop and listen to and follow the directions of trusted sources including authorities. They will let you know what the best course of action is both now and going forward. 

Volunteering is a very good way to help in times of need, but it is important for you to be mindful to always stop and listen first. This will ensure the right help is given at the right time in the right place. Remember that additional volunteers are unlikely to be engaged during or immediately after a disaster, with volunteering more likely to be needed in the long-term recovery.

Putting the needs and readiness of those impacted first

Many disaster impacted individuals, families and communities are still coming to terms with their loss and are not ready for outside help. Many volunteer-organisations working in disaster recovery have not yet been approached to help and those that have are just beginning their work. Currently it is still not possible to access some fire affected areas due to health and safety risks and access and accommodation limitations.

The activation of our dedicated, crisis-ready Australian Defence Force Reservists who are being supported by international Defence Force personnel is also making a huge difference providing critical, coordinated on the ground help at this time.   

A Coordinated Effort is Best

Whilst all offers of assistance are appreciated, it is vital to balance these with the needs, well-being and readiness to be able to accommodate assistance of those impacted by the fires. The readiness of volunteer-involving organisations working to coordinate recovery operations to place volunteers also needs consideration.   

Recovery and rebuilding are most effective when coordinated through local and experienced volunteer organisations responding to requests for help from impacted individuals and communities and with the knowledge of local Councils. Volunteers provide an essential workforce for this recovery and rebuilding, which will be long-term. 

During times of crisis it is natural to feel an immediate, compelling urge to help – please wait until volunteer assistance is requested. With the extent of the devastation our country has experienced in recent months, we have been overwhelmed with offers of assistance to volunteer and to donate money, goods and services. We ask you to be patient while planning for the right help, at the right time and in the right place is coordinated. 

Here’s how you can support those impacted by the fires:

  • Check in on and help family, friends, neighbours and your local community, and look after yourself first. 
  • Many organisations already have a role and experience in disaster recovery, while others, particularly local volunteer organisations such as sporting and service groups, step forward at times of need to help their community. Consider volunteering for organisations in your local community that can and will help at times of disaster and need, particularly with long term recovery and rebuilding. 
  • Your help will be needed when the immediate danger has past and affected individuals and communities are ready to ask for and receive assistance. By volunteering locally you strengthen your own, your community’s, and our nation’s connectedness, resilience, and disaster capability and preparedness. 
  • A variety of organisations are now supporting impacted individuals and communities on the ground with recovery. You may like to check their websites for information on volunteer opportunities and recruitment. These organisations vary from state to state, and at this time they may not be in a position to get back to you immediately – please be patient and understanding. Many have a role in longer term recovery and need the help of volunteers to deliver these important services. Examples of organisations are, but are not limited to:  
  • We encourage you to research further volunteer-involving organisations in your local area who also may need your help. 
  • Refer to trusted sources, including local councils and formally recognised emergency services agencies. Their websites and social media provide essential, up-to-date information on the disaster situation and when, where and what help is needed.
  • If you have pre-registered as an emergency volunteer with Volunteering Queensland or a similar organisation in another state, for now please wait; you may be contacted if and when needed. Recovery is long-term and determined by the needs and readiness of those impacted by the disaster.
  • Donate money to a national, state or local authorised, recognised disaster support agency. These vary from state to state.
  • If you wish to pledge a donation of goods, you can do so on the Givit website.

We are grateful for your concern and offers to help those currently experiencing displacement, loss and pain. Their safety and well-being comes first and a coordinated response best serves their immediate and longer-term needs. Please be patient and understanding if your offers of assistance are not immediately accepted. Stop and listen to trusted sources. They will let you know when, what and where help is needed. 

Above all it is essential that we all put the needs and readiness to accept help of affected communities first, 

… and we need to keep the volunteering ethos alive and healthy in Australia.

We welcome your contact with us during this challenging time. For further information about volunteering at times of disaster, please visit Volunteering Queensland’s EV CREW website: emergencyvolunteering.com.au