Australian bushfires: How to donate money to help victims, wildlife and the fire service

Australians – and people around the world – have stepped up to help the thousands impacted by devastating bushfires sweeping the country. Here’s how you could pitch in, too.
A screenshot of FireWatch for 6 January 2020
Fires burning across Australia on 6 January, 2020, at noon. Image: FireWatch myfirewatch.landgate.wa.gov.au

Bushfires have wreaked havoc across Australia, so far claiming the lives of 23 people and destroying more than 1500 homes. This fire season, which began early in September, has reportedly burned about 6 million hectares of land, which is about the same size as mainland Tasmania (6.4 million hectares). The season traditionally ends in March.

All the while, the rest of Australia – and, indeed, the world – has been watching in horror. Donations to charities helping the victims and fire services have followed, including to a Facebook campaign kicked off by Australian comedian Celeste Barber which has raised more than $50 million so far. Ms Barber’s relatives were forced to evacuate their home at Eden, in New South Wales, after flames ringed the town. The funds will go to the NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigade. To put that amount of money in perspective, it costs about $500,000 to buy a new fire truck.

Australian Bushfire information and updates: Resources here.

Separately, a fundraising benefit run during the ABC’s screening of New Year’s Eve fireworks show netted more than $10 million.

A galaxy of celebrities have also pitched in, including Aussie actress Nicole Kidman and US singer Pink, who each donated $500,000, to rural fire services, and US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who gave money to the Red Cross and other charities.

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth and his family donated $1 million, telling his millions of fans: “Hopefully, you guys can chip in too. Every penny counts, so whatever you can muster up is greatly appreciated”. He also put together a webpage of links, listing charities collecting funds.

Australian cookbook author and fitness influencer Sophie Guidolin raised $1 million via a Facebook campaign, donating the funds yesterday to the New South Wales and South Australian volunteer firefighters. She has launched another campaign to support those effected by the Kangaroo Island fires, which killed two people.

How to donate to the bushfire victims

A list of official organisations to which people can donate money include:

Victorian Bushfire Appeal

The Victorian Bushfire Appeal has so far raised $2 million, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews pledging that the State Government will match donations dollar-for-dollar. The fundraising effort is a partnership between the government, Bendigo Bank and The Salvation Army.

Red Cross

Accepting cash donations to fund support at evacuation centres, emergency assistance such as cash grants to people who have lost their homes; psychological first aid, longer-term recovery programs, paying for volunteer helper expenses

Foodbank

Accepting cash donations and limited donations of specific food. Check what is needed in your area. It says it is using funds to collect food and transport  it to impacted areas.

According to the charity, $1 donated = 2 meals for people affected by Australia’s fire disaster.

The Salvation Army

Accepting cash donations for its Disaster Appeal which is helping provide meals to evacuees and frontline responders

St Vincent de Paul Society Bushfire Appeal

Asking for monetary donations rather than goods “at this point”.

The charity says it is providing food, clothing, essential items, grocery vouchers for people affected by the fires. It’s also using money raised to help those affected by the fires pay unexpected bills during the recovery process, and to fund expenses of workers and volunteers, including those providing emotional support and referrals to other agencies

Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund

This Bendigo-based charity funds disaster preparedness campaigns, as well as recovery initiatives.

It says it pools together funds raised and then gives grants to rural and regional community organisations which apply for assistance.

How to donate goods to the bushfire victims

At times, it can be difficult for some agencies to cope with the huge influx of donated goods during a crisis. Organisations such as the Red Cross and Foodbank suggest researching online to find out exactly what is needed by organisations before deciding on what to donate. They also both suggest that financial donations are “the easiest way to support those in need” during a crisis. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has requested that people stop donating items and to send cash donations, instead.

GIVIT

Matches people in need with specific donations. Check their site to see what is needed. Also accepting cash donations to purchase “essential items”.

How to donate to help out fire services in affected areas

Country Fire Authority Victoria – https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/about/supporting-cfa

South Australian Country Fire Service – https://cfsfoundation.org.au/donate

Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland – https://www.rfbaq.org/donate-to-rfbaq

How to donate to help out wildlife

A number of charities are collecting donations that will specifically go to helping wildlife recover from the bushfires. They include:

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

The hospital’s GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $3.6 million so far. Money raised is being used to treat and rehabilitate injured koalas; fund drinking stations and water carrying vehicles for koalas in the wild; and to support a koala breeding program.

World Wildlife Fund

Uses funds raised to treat injured animals and restore their habitat.

WIRES

The New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service is raising funds that will be used to pay for food, medication, rescue equipment, replacement of rehabilitation enclosures destroyed in the fires, and other essential items.

RSPCA NSW

RSPCA NSW have inspectors and staff in the disaster zone, helping out in evacuations and assisting animal owners keep their lifestock and pets safe. Once the danger period has passed, RSPCA officers will help government health workers assess injured animals. RSPCA say donated funds will be used to help rescue and treat injured animals.

 

A warning about bushfire fundraising scams

There are a plethora of other people and organisations asking for donations for bushfire victims and firefighting associations. Government agency Scamwatch warns that anyone thinking about donating should do their research.

“If you are considering making a donation to a bushfire appeal, donate wisely by thoroughly checking that you are donating to a legitimate organisation. Don’t let scammers appeal to your generous side,” Scamwatch states.

The organisation received many reports of scams targeting people after the 2009 Victorian bushfires, and other media have reported that heartless scammers are active again during this crisis.

Scamwatch offers advice to individuals who are contacted by charities using different methods:

Street collector: Ask for identification, and if in doubt, contact the organisation directly (find the contact details from an independent source, such as a phone book) before donating.

Door collectors or phone contact: Ask for the charity’s full name, address and how the proceeds will be used. If they become defensive and cannot answer your questions, close the door or hang up.

Email: If you receive an email from an unverified sender, do not click on any links or open attachments and press ‘delete’.

“Never give money or your financial details to someone you don’t trust,” Scamwatch warns. “If you are considering donating to a charity, check their credentials first at the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) website.”

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