We have begun 2020, not as we would have wished, with unprecedented bushfires decimating many of our communities and environments and the tragic loss of human and animal lives.
Our hearts go out to the families and communities who have lost loved ones, and all those impacted by the fires, including some of our staff and volunteers. It’s been inspiring and humbling to see the selfless, sustained courage of our firefighters and all first responders, as well as the spontaneous practical support many individuals and groups are giving.
Even though the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) is not a relief agency with specialist emergency response capabilities, we can play a number of important roles in the recovery phase. This includes:
- providing support to those agencies on the ground, including our offer of assistance to the team at Anglicare Victoria who are responding in some affected areas,
- reaching out to local councils to determine how best we are able to support differing needs of the various impacted areas,
- offering emergency respite through our Aged Care facilities,
- working with local National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)/ Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) providers and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), preparing to support displaced NDIS / ECEI participants from Gippsland,
- directing offers of financial support to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, and
- supporting our own staff and volunteers through this tragic period.
BSL has much expertise and experience in what it takes to support those most vulnerable in our communities. For the past decade, we have been working on understanding and mitigating the economic impact of climate change on the most disadvantaged households and developing policy solutions to these challenges. We will seek to leverage this knowledge to support longer term recovery efforts across Victoria, as well as contribute to shaping ongoing policy choices as a result of the tragedy we have experienced.
We know climate change will affect every Australian and many of its impacts are already being felt intensely by low-income households.
The science is clear. It is devastating that the dire predictions by experts of climate change impacts have been ignored for so long in Australia – both in terms of the immediate risks of this fire season and of the longer term, inevitable increase in extreme weather events, like drought, heatwaves and floods, which result from the failure to take climate change seriously.
This bushfire crisis is still unfolding with the long summer still ahead. If you wish to support the relief effort, we recommend visiting the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.