The Australian Bushfire Emergency

6 January 2020
As the fire emergency continues to deepen and further impact local communities I have been keeping a close watch on how Guiding Communities have been faring. Thankfully, as far as can be ascertained, our Members are safe and I hope that situation continues.

You will have all seen that emergency services and support agencies across the country are unbelievably stretched but continue on to help in their communities and will continue to do so for as long as this current emergency continues.

There have been many questions asking what Guiding can do to help, and I too have been pondering what is most needed at this time. What on the ground assistance is needed in what are rapidly changing situations will depend on local circumstances and is very difficult to gauge from the outside.  

We have already had Guiding assist in Braidwood, ACT, Bega and the North Coast, among other areas in very practical ways. This assistance was most welcomely received by the local coordinators who were most able to assess what was required. Could I suggest that anyone who would like to offer assistance from our wonderful Guiding community continue do so through local channels. We have so many skills to offer…first aid, bulk catering, person power, children’s entertainment, collating goods, making animal wraps and food stores, halls for the use of coordinating efforts and sleeping volunteers to name just a few. Local Guiding could then coordinate their network of Leaders, families and friends to collaborate on their assigned tasks. 

We are a wonderfully practical and generous bunch and our thoughts always turn to what we can do to assist when the opportunity arises. It will not be until after the fire emergency is over that we will be able to more fully assess what Guiding and local communities will need. Could I suggest holding off for now with longer term support or collecting goods in anticipation but to be ready when the time arrives.

This emergency will have a recovery period of beyond 2 years and this process will require significant funding. I will reiterate and pass on the views of so many support agencies in saying that the most benefit will be gained by cash donations in order to deliver to those people affected the most appropriate assistance. If you and your Guiding networks are not in a position to offer ‘on the ground assistance’ could you consider how you might fundraise for the benefit of communities? Guiding is currently in the process of considering how best to manage this process.

Keep safe everyone.

Sarah Neill
State Commissioner, Girl Guides NSW, ACT & NT


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