Monday 6 January 2020

Australia is on Fire: how people are responding.

Sylvan Dam (1931) by Arthur Streeton.
This morning I attended a writers' get together at a cafe about 10 minutes drive from my home. As I drove home through the drizzly and smoky air, I wondered whether there was enough rain to help where it is needed in East Gippsland.

I reached home and looked about my little house that I bought 4 months ago. Smaller than I would like, still needing some finishing touches, it is nevertheless, home. How grateful I am to have it. Many people have lost theirs in Australia's rampaging fires. Everything gone. Seeing some of the TV footage, people talking about their experiences with smouldering, collasped buildings behind them is heartbreaking. Some people were clearly disorientated and traumatised, some unbearably sad and others angry. I have never been impressed by outbursts of hysterical weeping or by those who rant, but these people all moved me beyond words because each was in their own way incredibly dignified.

People are angry at the Prime Minister's poor response. I am too but this post isn't about that. It's about other people - those who are doing something. Every locality, it seems, has a facebook or other social media page for donations for the Emergency Relief Groups. These seem chaotic at first glance but my local one is well organised. All groups need to liaise with official authorities such as the State Control Centre (SCC) to ensure the right things get to the right places at the right time. Transporting items has to be done without hampering rescue vehicles or those needing to evacuate from endangered areas.

From food and clothing for those who have lost everything, supplies of snacks, drinks and toiletries for the fire-fighters - known here as fireys, suitable supplies for the vets and animal shelter staff helping the injured and orphaned animals, wildfood balls - made to specified recipes for wild animals and fabric joey pouches or woollen nests for injured animals and birds, the response has been incredible.

Centres have been inundated with goods and many have now put out pleas for no further donations, other than cash which goes directly to the various official accounts via one of the banks or directly to the County Fire Authority.

Authors have joined in with an auction on Twitter #AuthorsForFireys which is happening all this week until 11th January. See how it works here. (Many of the fireys who are fighting these fires are volunteers. Highly trained, but still volunteers, who have other jobs. Many, of course, have been released from those jobs during the emergency.) From signed books to feedback on manuscripts, there are all sorts of things up for bidding. I've made bids, but much as I would like to win my items, I'm very happy if I'm outbid too. Many, although not all, items can take bids from outside Australia, so hoping my UK friends might be interested in taking part too.