Australia rallies as devastating bushfires continue

3 October 2023

Australia rallies as devastating bushfires continue

The Salvation Army has been overwhelmed by the generosity of everyday Australians as catastrophic bushfires continue to impact lives.

Your kind and generous support means we have been able to deploy teams in affected areas, providing much-needed assistance to evacuees, firefighters and volunteers. Our Salvation Army Emergency Services (SAES) teams continue to be active across most states, working in partnership with local corps and their community volunteers and supporters.

Major Topher Holland, General Manager, Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management, said The Salvation Army was working across multiple phases of disaster response.

The first phase involves Salvation Army Emergency Service (SAES) personnel and volunteers feeding and providing support to first responders and assisting with the management and service of evacuation centres.

Phase two is an initial assessment and provision of emergency financial support to those affected. Phase three is the recovery phase – providing financial support for those affected following a more detailed assessment of the individual or family’s needs.

“The nature of this unprecedented and ongoing disaster means that in some areas we have moved into our recovery phase and, in other areas, we are still providing emergency response.”

National response

The community has thrown its full support behind the Salvos in Victoria, coming together to provide aid, complete paperwork and assist with the mental health of survivors. With evacuation centres open in Wangaratta, Wodonga, Sale, Bairnsdale and Tallangatta, more are set to open in the coming week.

In New South Wales, our personnel remain active in evacuation centres on the south coast at Ulladulla, Batemans Bay, Moruya, Narooma and Bega. An Australian Defence Force team is assisting with catering and logistics at Bega, where Salvos personnel, volunteers from other churches and community members united to serve 3000 people at the peak of the emergency. SAES teams are feeding firefighters in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and at Bulga in the Hunter Valley.

In South Australia, we have been supporting fire-affected communities across the state for the past two weeks. A team of volunteers has been present at Kangaroo Island since Saturday, feeding a new shift of firefighters every 30 minutes. Volunteers based near the Kingscote Airport have worked tirelessly to pre-prepare meals and give emergency services some respite.

“Everybody working here on Kangaroo Island are heroes,” said Mark Foyle, Public Relations Secretary for South Australia/Northern Territory

We have also been assisting many families and groups impacted by the closure of Eyre Highway on the Nullarbor, which was closed for the past nine days by blazes burning near the goldfields town of Norseman, destroying more than 500,000 hectares. Kalgoorlie-Boulder Salvation Army has opened its air-conditioned corps every day, hosting people who are displaced.

Corps Officers Lieutenants Gavin and Jodie Jones have also been able to help to secure accommodation and provide some emergency financial assistance to people who have been stranded for nine days so far.

Recovery efforts in full swing

Major Colin Young, Associate Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management Coordinator for NSW/ACT, says there has been an overwhelming response from the Australian public, and no more material assistance is needed at this stage.

“We have so many donations that have been delivered to our centres in these towns. We appreciate the generosity, but we cannot handle any more. The shops in these towns aren’t going to be able to recover if we keep importing goods from outside the area. This is really about getting the town back on its feet and securing our supplies locally now.”

In Lithgow, The Salvation Army has provided support and assistance to people impacted by bushfires earlier in the season.

The Salvation Army’s emergency response teams in Queensland remain on stand-by to assist in other states as needed. Adam Cole, Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management Coordinator for Queensland, said disaster recovery is underway in various parts of the state in response to bushfires from earlier in the season.

“We haven’t forgotten about those people who remain affected by emergency events earlier this year, and even going as far back as the Townsville floods; we are still in these places working our best to make a positive difference in the recovery phase.”

For more information on The Salvation Army’s work with natural disasters, including how to get help and how to donate, please visit our disasters and emergencies page.

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