Words by Jahin, 19 NSW
“I don’t feel safe leaving my children to this world”
Those were the words uttered by my 75-year-old neighbour on the eve of the new year. A time of elation was met with tears streaming down his face, his shaking hand resting in mine on our front porch.
Words don’t do justice to the state of Australia right now. It doesn’t even require you to step out the door to realise that this catastrophe is the worst we’ve ever seen. Hectares of land destroyed, houses burned to ashes and lives lost; a page out of one’s horrifying nightmare. Any viewing of the sky is likened to “hell on earth”. During the beginning of the year, when new year intentions are meant to be refreshing individuals, how can one remain optimistic for the future when the reality is so disheartening?
Like many people, seeing this state of emergency makes me want to act. As a young person, there is a natural desire to save the present for our future wellbeing. But what can we do when we’re advised to stay indoors, away from smoke and nowhere near the fires?
Well, there is a lot we can do despite these feelings of hopelessness.
It does not matter how great or small, everything counts when you look at the families, firefighters and wildlife suffering inconceivably. Charity does not decrease wealth. There is no act too small.
You can send donations that go towards food supplies for emergency shelters, supporting wildlife and to emergency teams to be there for more communities under threat.
Here is a list of platforms I highly recommend for those not knowing where to start:
https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/volunteer/support-your-local-brigade <– Support your volunteer firefighters
https://www.redcross.org.au/campaigns/disaster-relief-and-recovery-donate <– Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery
https://donate.wwf.org.au/donate/koala-crisis/koala-crisis?t=AP1119W03#gs.rzm4s6 Help support the wildlife of Australia before it’s too late.
Organise a fundraiser.
It’s understandable that monetary contributions aren’t always a feasible option for people in different circumstances. However, that is not the only way you can contribute. Reach out to your contacts, no matter how many people, and share the above links to donations. Advocate for others that have the means right now to dig deep, for the benefit of the needy.
More than anything, you can dedicate your time and effort into these efforts. Join an organisation such as Red Cross who are relentlessly raising money for bushfire victims. Step out and create packs of supplies to be sent to the families that are lacking resources.
Simply be there
Reach out to your family members, friends, neighbours and anyone who may feel anxious regarding the situation. Share positive affirmations and support them through this difficult period. Empathy is imperative as we are all affected by issues in different degrees.
Raise your voice.
The term “unprecedented” has been thrown around in the coverage of these bushfires. That means that there is no guarantee that this bushfire crisis will not occur again or even grow in impact. As a result, climate change must be a central component in all national decision-making. Demand change from your local, state and federal leaders. Send letters to local MPs and start petitions that pressure them to act and prioritise this national crisis. Drive them to establish better means in protecting the volunteers, wildlife and homes. Persist on disaster relief funds to be available to timely address catastrophes like what we are witnessing. Tell them to put the victims of this crisis at the top of their agenda. Push for climate change to be at the forefront of future elections.
There is a need to be aware that this crisis we experienced is not a one-off event – I cannot stress this enough. There will be greater occurrences as we progress with time. Parallel to this, we can be better prepared to face the impacts of climate change head on through learning more about environmental changes and methods to counteract emergency situations. You can learn how to provide First Aid and CPR, create plans as a family for emergencies and stock up on first aid supplies and masks. We saw this time around the drastically poor air quality in major areas, so it is crucial that all aspects of preparation need to be addressed. Another effective strategy is to familiarise yourself more with possible routes in your area in case of evacuations. There is no guarantee that your normal roads will still be a feasible option in case of another natural disaster so learn more avenues for escape. You will only thank yourself.
Feeling hopeless right now is understandable. It’s a troubling time for all of humanity. But we must be resilient. The bushfire disaster has shone light on the kindness, compassion and bravery possessed by people of all walks of life. Australians demonstrated their sheer humanity for their neighbours and wildlife, and it is that act of strength that shows how far we can go as a nation if we’re united.
It’s time to walk forward hand in hand as a nation no matter how scary it may be.
Illustration by Aileen, You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc