As Australia continues to burn, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted calls to provide compensation for the country's volunteer firefighting force. With the firefighters stretched thin among the most widespread bushfire season Australia has ever seen, here's how you can help the volunteers this holiday season.
Large parts of eastern Australia are now in catastrophic fire danger. With over 100 fires burning and 850,000 already hectares destroyed you may be wondering how you can help. We've rounded up some of the best charities and organisations.
Fresh back from his family holiday in Hawaii amid a devastating national bushfire crisis, Morrison has doubled down against calls to provide compensation, temporary or otherwise, to the volunteer fireforce helping to fight life and property-threatening fires across the NSW state and in parts of South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.
In an interview with 2GB radio station, the prime minister, according to ABC News, confirmed he would not succumb to "knee-jerk" reactions.
"We will always rely around the country on our volunteer forces, whether it's on fires or surf lifesaving or anything else," he told 2GB.
"But, you know, right now, the Commissioner has reminded me that they need to focus on the operational effort and not be too distracted by those issues at the moment."
Those issues refer to the payment or compensation of volunteers who take time off work or other activities to assist in fire-fighting efforts across the states. There are around 72,000 volunteers alone in the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and with the bushfires burning since early September, many have had to return to work or have faced weeks and months of exhaustive and devastating firefighting.
But since the nation's leader has decided not to step in and offer federal funding to alleviate the situation, here's how the average Australian can help those saving lives, wildlife and homes this summer.
God this makes me furious. My husband is an RFS volunteer- we have very very few in our area. He’s been doing 18 hour days fighting fires on his days off work, and then going to fight fires the minute he finishes work on work days. He is exhausted but if they don’t fight 1/2
— Jenna (@jenna_rose21) December 10, 2019
How can I donate?
Local firefighting brigades have spoken out about under-resourcing and volunteers struggling to keep up with the escalating fire situation, particularly in NSW where it's been ongoing for months.
Given these harsh realities, you can donate money or supplies to many of your local fire services. In New South Wales, you can head to the RFS website and send money via your preferred method. They accept direct deposit, credit or debit card donations as well as cheque and money orders
Rural Fire Brigade Association QLD (RFBAQ) in Queensland also accepts money via Visa or Mastercard. Visit its donation portal to help the northern firies.
The South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS) is also accepting one-off or regular donations after experiencing a devastating few days in the lead up to Christmas. Visit the CFS' portal for more information on how to donate.
In Victoria, money donations can be given to the state's Country Fire Authority (CFA) to assist with its efforts this summer period.
Western Australia's Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) does not accept monetary donations because it's a government authority but recommends you get in contact with your local brigade.
"It is best to contact your local volunteer fire or emergency service to see how you can help," the website reads.
What else can I do?
If money's a bit light over the holiday period, there are other ways to help. If you have spare food or other relevant supplies, you can provide them to your local fire brigade. It's best to get in touch first to see what goods they actually require rather than giving them anything.
Alternatively, if you have some time off over the summer break or have a flexible employer, you can volunteer as a firefighter yourself. Each state and territory has its own process but NSW, for example, requires a form, an interview and a six-month probationary period. While it's not likely you'll be able volunteer immediately, if successful, you should be able to volunteer for the next bushfire season.
The bushfire crisis is still continuing across NSW but while the fires and the smoke pollution have been attracting the headlines, another issue could make the situation even more dire for parts of the state as well as it's major capital, Sydney. It's our water supplies.