Numerous women have banded together to help with Australia’s bushfire relief efforts.
As the country continues to battle bushfires, it can be hard to comprehend the scale of the crisis. So far, the fires have burned an estimated 10.7 million hectares, killed at least 27 people, and destroyed more than 2000 homes.
Despite the devastation, Australians and people across the world have come forth with generous contributions, shining a beacon of hope.
Help from women, in particular, has come in all forms – some are raising funds, some have volunteered their time, and some have offered to shelter animals. These are their stories.
Islamic women travel 4 hours to cook for firefighters
A team of about 20 women from the Australian Islamic Centre (AIC) filled five trucks of donated food items and supplies and drove four hours to help bushfire-impacted communities in the Gippsland region of Victoria.
The Melbourne-based group travelled to Johnsonville, where they cooked meals for 150 firefighters, and delivered supplies to neighbouring towns including Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance and Sale.
The group also donated $1500 from a fundraising barbecue which has gone towards bushfire relief efforts.
AIC volunteer and spokesperson Lookman El kurdi said the group liaised with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) to coordinate their efforts and to ensure they wouldn’t “cause more of a burden” to the fire-affected regions.
The AIC put a call out on their social media outlets for donations and within 48 hours they accumulated five truckloads worth of goods.
“It was beautiful how all of us Australians came together and helped with the cause,” Mr El kurdi said.
“The females (of AIC) have done a large portion of the work, so they’ve done a fantastic job.”
Mr El kurdi said the group felt compelled to help.
“When you see the people that are displaced and directly affected by the fires, then coming up to us and telling us ‘I’ve lost my farm, I’ve lost my house’ and then breaking down in tears… it was a really heartbreaking moment,” he said.
“Just giving back a little bit was the least we could do.”
And the AIC is not stopping there – they are already working closely with charity organisation Human Appeal Australia, which launched a nation-wide campaign to help the bushfire-affected areas. They are also working with the MFB to provide help where needed, including labour to rebuild and assisting with storage.
Mr El kurdi said despite the devastation the bushfires have created, it is important for people to focus on helping and finding stories of hope to move forward in a positive way.
“If we spread the message of helping our fellow Australians in times of need, it makes our society a lot better,” he said.
Woman opens farm to displaced animals
One woman has opened her 130-acre farm to rescue and house animals that have been displaced as a result of the bushfires.
B Starbright, who owns and runs The Owl and the PussyCat Farm Animal Sanctuary in the Byron Bay region, has taken in more than 60 animals in recent months including horses, cows, donkeys, ducks and chickens.
“We’ve got a lot of extra animals at the sanctuary at the moment who are still evacuated from the fires,” she said.
Ms Starbright’s efforts have been entirely voluntary and self-funded.
“Once we opened the doors for fire evacuees, and with the drought, the food bills have gone through the roof. And we’ve got no water either.
“It’s just a family-run sanctuary. We don’t get any funding from anywhere else.”
The recent bushfires have impacted Ms Starbright on a personal level, as she is a Black Saturday survivor.
“We lost everything in Black Saturday. We were in King Lake. One of the reasons why we moved north five years ago was because every summer I was getting more anxious (about the fires),” she said.
Ms Starbright said she spent “a crazy 10 days” back in November, when the fires were really bad around the Byron Bay region, evacuating animals and bringing them to the sanctuary.
“I’ve always been an animal lover. And farm animals are particularly close to my heart,” she said.
While Ms Starbright is at financial capacity to help more animals, she said the farm has the space to take in additional animals if financial assistance can be provided. The farm has a live-in caretaker.
Ms Starbright is running a GoFundMe page to raise funds to cover food, water, vet and treatment costs for the animals. You can donate here.
Female celebrities lead mammoth fundraising efforts
Among the many examples of women helping those affected by bushfires are the celebrities who have used their popularity and platforms to raise much-needed funds.
Australian comedian Celeste Barber launched a fundraising campaign on Facebook and, to date, has raised more than $51 million from more than 1.3 million individual donors. Her donation page has become the largest in the history of Facebook Fundraisers.
At this stage, it is unclear how the money will be divided up, but the campaign is still attracting donations.
Other Australian female celebrities who have made considerable donations to bushfire relief are Kylie and Dannii Minogue, who donated $500,000, as well as Nicole Kidman (with husband Keith Urban) who donated $500,000.
American singer Pink donated $500,000, Kylie Jenner donated $1 million, and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres has launched a GoFundMe page with the goal to raise $5 million for bushfire relief.
How you can help with bushfire relief efforts
If you have been inspired by any of these stories of women helping with the bushfire relief efforts in Australia and feel compelled to contribute, there are several ways you can assist.
While people are now being urged to stop donating clothing and food, following an influx of contributions, they can send cash.
There are several charities and organisations who are coordinating donations for bushfire victims. Here’s how you can help:
Donate to charity:
Support the firefighters:
Victoria: Country Fire Authority (CFA)
South Australia: Country Fire Service Foundation
Help the wildlife:
View the full list of endorsed and registered charities with bushfire relief and recovery activities here.