You’re probably already well aware that Australia is currently facing one of its worst-ever bushfire crises. Fires have been burning across several states since as early as September 2019, and the situation looks to be continuing for the foreseeable future.
If you’re in a position where you want to help out, or you’re curious about how you should approach travelling around Australia during and after the bushfires, we’ve put together a few handy pointers.
How you can help
There is a number of organisations providing much-needed support across the country, whether it be to firefighters, people who have lost their homes, or wildlife. At this stage, the best option for helping out is to donate cash. It takes volunteers a significant amount of time to sort donated food and other goods and these items take up a lot of space, while money directly supports local businesses and allows people to buy what they need.
Here are just some of the organisations you can donate to, organised by category. And remember, no donation is too small!
Victim support and emergency assistance
Australian Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief – This organisation supports people who have been evacuated from their homes and provides emergency assistance.
Salvation Army Disaster Appeal – The Salvation Army provides and meals support to bushfire victims.
St Vincent de Paul Society Bushfire Appeal – The St Vincent de Paul Society provides food, clothing and other items to bushfire victims.
Victorian Bushfire Appeal – This organisation is spreading money across various communities who need emergency assistance.
NSW Rural Fire Service – This volunteer-based firefighting organisation is on the front line in NSW.
Country Fire Authority – The CFA is a Victorian volunteer and community-based firefighting organisation.
SA Country Fire Service – To help volunteer firefighters battle blazes in South Australia.
Tasmania Fire Service – This Tasmania-based fire service fights fires across the state.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services – Another firefighting organisation made up of volunteers and permanent firefighters.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services (WA) – To support firefighters in WA.
WIRES – This organisation rescues and looks after wildlife in NSW.
Wildlife Victoria – This organisation is raising money to distribute to shelters across Victoria.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital – A huge number of koalas live on the mid-north coast of Australia, and this hospital is one of the primary carers for koalas who have lost their habitat in the fires.
Tourism around Australia
Major cities like Sydney and Melbourne can be accessed easily, but some regional areas may be difficult to visit. The South Coast area between Sydney and Melbourne has been hit particularly hard and you’re advised not to travel there while the region battles massive fires. Also note that air quality across several cities, like Sydney and Melbourne, has been quite bad, so if you’re asthmatic or just don’t want to breathe in the smoke, you might want to avoid travelling or pack an air mask.
Certain parts of popular tourist destinations are currently closed, while some remain open. If you’re planning to travel to areas of Australia that are battling bushfires, it’s best to stay on top of alerts to see whether you can visit and to ensure your safety. You can check with local fire services, tourism operators, national parks and emergency services whether the place you want to visit is affected or closed. If and when you do visit a particular area, make sure to stay on top of alerts as the situation can change quite quickly. Road closures can crop up without much warning, too.
When the bushfires eventually cease, damaged areas will need all the support they can get. There will be a period of rebuilding and recovery, but further down the line, instead of steering clear of areas affected by the fires, you’re encouraged to continue visiting them. Buying products from areas affected by the bushfires and supporting local economies will ensure the money goes directly back into the communities that need it.
What if I live in an area at risk of bushfire?
Stay alert and keep on top of emergency warnings. Have an action plan ready in case you need to evacuate. You can ask your educational institution for advice if you’re concerned.
According to the NSW Rural Fire Service, there are three categories of bushfire warnings to be aware of:
There is no immediate danger. Stay up-to-date in case the situation changes.
Watch & Act
Conditions are changing and you need to start taking action now to protect you and your family.
You are in imminent in danger and need to take action immediately. Any delay now puts your life at risk.
Note that these stages don’t always occur in order. An incident might go straight to the Emergency Warning category if it’s particularly dangerous. The NSW RFS website has plenty of information on planning for a bushfire.
Here’s a list of state-based websites containing information on emergency alerts:
NSW – NSW Rural Fire Service
Victoria – Vic Emergency
Queensland – Queensland Government Disasters and Alerts
South Australia – South Australian Country Fire Service
Western Australia – Emergency WA Warnings & Incidents
Tasmania – TasALERT
For live traffic alerts:
NSW – Live Traffic NSW
Victoria – VicTraffic
Queensland – QLDTraffic
South Australia – Traffic SA
Western Australia – WA Travel Map
Tasmania – Transport Tasmania