Helping communities impacted by the bushfire crisis

Across the country, Australians have been impacted by devastating fire conditions over the past month. Samaritans has directly seen the affect on communities through our support in disaster recovery efforts on the Mid North Coast and Central Coast areas.

Samaritans provides disaster recovery support in Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, Central Coast and Mid North Coast regions of NSW.

Samaritans is one of a number of government and non-government organisations working together to provide an effective and coordinated response when major emergencies occur. Samaritans Disaster Recovery service, in partnership with the Anglican community, offers:

  • Assistance in caring for individuals and communities affected by major emergencies
  • Training to heighten the understanding of emergency management and disaster recovery
Many have contacted Samaritans to ask- how can I help? We’ve compiled information to help address this very question and to point people in the direction of where to get assistance during this time.

I’ve been impacted personally by the fire situation

Immediate emergency assistance can be accessed through Evacuation Centres and Disaster Welfare Assistance Points which are resourced by staff and volunteers from a range of organisations like Samaritans, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.  For information on where to locate these centres during a crisis, call 1800 018 444 or visit www.emergency.nsw.gov.au.

The government has made a range of income and emergency relief payments available to people impacted by the fires, as well as donations and other support. These are aimed at providing for immediate and short term needs, to support recovery from the bushfires across NSW.

To find information on what emergency payments are available for residents impacted by the bushfires, click here for federal government assistance. The NSW government has also produced a range of information about accessing help and financial assistance, click here.

A fact sheet from NSW office of Emergency Management outlines the range of assistance available to people and businesses in affected communities. Please note, a number of these measures have eligibility requirements that must be met to access assistance.

I want to help those affected by the fires

Disaster situations often trigger a whole of community person and we are fortunate to hear many stories of this generosity. Here is our list of things that businesses and individuals can do to help make a difference:

  1. If you are able, consider giving cash

After major disasters when people lose their homes and belongings, it’s easy to refer to thoughts of what they might need to fill the gap- but we’ve found that it’s best to give cash when able to ensure a dignified experience for all. Money helps charities to respond quickly to need identified in a community and to individuals in a person-centred way, enabling them to re-establish their life with belongings that best fit their needs.

Perhaps you might consider a donation to an organisation with an established emergency appeal or to a local Rural Fire Service? Here’s a resource to find out about organiations accepting monetary donations at this time: GiveNow. 

If you’d rather something more direct to help communities get back on their feet, perhaps you might consider a purchase from a local small business in the affected area when they’re back up and running?

  1. Donate goods that you know are required

Please only donate goods if charities have specifically requested items. We know from our current experiences assisting in fire affected areas, that while well-intentioned, significant amounts of donations have created secondary disasters where storage and resourcing distribution of goods is not available when responding to an emergency. We can inadvertently produce waste issues where individuals donate significant amounts of second hand goods which cannot be distributed.

So that we can focus our efforts on responding to the fire excavation and recovery response, call ahead, ask the question and only donate items that are needed.

GIVIT works with local charities, community groups, the state government and councils in disaster affected areas to help them obtain exactly what is needed, when it is needed. The GIVIT platform matches donation offers with identified requests from a storm, fire, flood or cyclone affected region, thereby eliminating the need for organisations to store and sort unexpected donations.

  1. Help out

Social media has created the space for a proactive community to gather, request and access practical assistance. Stay tuned on your news feed to find out ways that you might be able to support the recovery effort.

While it may not be possible to jump in for this particular fire crisis, charities like Samaritans are often seeking volunteers to assist in Disaster Recovery efforts. Local groups of trained volunteers play a vital role in delivering practical care and assistance to those affected by disasters.

Perhaps you might consider registering to complete the training to help out in future: https://www.samaritans.org.au/disability-support-jobs/volunteer/

As we continue to face the possibility of further fires, more people facing homelessness and the ongoing recovery and rebuilding of communities across NSW, we offer our thoughts, prayers and commitment of support to communities in need.

We thank those across the community who are working tirelessly to support communities on the ground affected. If you need to talk through how you are feeling and the impact this is having on you please contact:

Kids helpline: 1800 55 1800

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636