Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 7, 2020

Australia’s bushfire crisis, (and why I changed my mind about donating some books)

In the middle of Australia’s bushfire crisis, I wanted to do something to help.

I had this really dumb idea.  I had heard that amongst the evacuees on the beach at Mallacoota since New Year’s Day, there was a mixture of terror and boredom.  They were stuck there with nothing to do….

Some of them, I thought, must be readers.  And I have two boxes of books ready to go to the OpShop.  Maybe?

But no. The scale of the disaster is beyond comprehension: immediate relief, reconstruction and recovery is going to cost billions, but well-meaning but mis-directed donations of goods are causing real problems.  Trucks and cars bearing stuff that is not going to get used are clogging roads that need to be clear for emergency vehicles, and a lot of that stuff will end up in landfill.  The government and bushfire relief charities are asking us to donate money, not goods.  This is the message from the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, yesterday (5/1/20):

I know it’s difficult to watch this all unfold and feel helpless.
I know a lot of people want to get stuck in and lend a hand.
But it’s important to remember that the emergency relief effort is being run by experienced organisations – and they don’t have space to sort or store donations.
It’s also potentially dangerous to have more traffic on the roads and more people in fire-affected areas.
If you want to help, please consider donating to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. [LH: If other states have set one up, please let me know in comments].
All money raised will go towards immediate support for those who have lost everything.
Practical things like replacing school uniforms. Buying household supplies. And rescuing and caring for local wildlife.
Victorians have been incredibly generous already. After just a few days, the Appeal is sitting at $2 million – and our Government will match the current amount raised.
This recovery will be long. It will be hard.
But we’ll make sure people get the support they need – when they need it.

The ABC (which raised $13.3 million with its NY Eve appeal) is reinforcing the message by reminding us that those who have lost everything want to make their own choices.

We donated to the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund but people can also donate to the following organisations:

Update, later the same day: this is an initiative dear to any booklover’s heart:

Books for Bushfires is a national initiative of the Childrens’ Book Council of Australia recognising that story – and story in books in particular – can effect real change
in both adults and children.
The CBCA has partnered with GIVIT to raise donations for the purchase of books for fire affected families and communities. Using the Australian Booksellers Association’s  Find a Bookshop search, GIVIT will make purchases from stores in these regions, supporting local business as well as the recipents of the books.

Support this appeal by donating money to buy books for children and young adult affected by the bushfire crisis. 
• Donate to the CBCA’s partners at GIVIT http://www.givit.org.au/
• Click on the ‘Click here to give Money’ section
• Then select ‘Books for Bushfires’ from the drop-down list. 

The CBCA’s Notable and Award book lists will be valuable guidance for selecting books for this appeal.   #booksforbushfires

Last but not least, giving blood can help save the lives of people injured in the fires.

But I was right about one thing: these evacuees from Mallacoota on board HMAS Choules are in the pooch playpen set up by the navy (see the video here) and look what their owners are doing!

Image credit: Mallacoota Community News via Facebook

At the same time, Jakarta has been hit by freak floods affecting thousands of people and causing more than 60 deaths.  The Straits Times is reporting that the Singapore Red Cross has pledged $100,000 for disaster recovery and relief to be shared equally between Australia and Indonesia.  In the midst of our own disaster, let’s not forget that there are other people in poorer countries who are suffering from freakish weather conditions too.


Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Tasmanian Bibliophile @Large and commented:
    Lisa gives good advice to those seeking to ‘do something’. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand the impulse to send books! Thank you Lisa.

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    • I would be desperate for someone to put a book into my hands… but being given a Dan Brown or a Maevy Binchy would only make me feel worse because it would reinforce how much I’d lost and how irreplaceable it was.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m at a loss for words seeing and reading all this. My heart sank when I read this piece:
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7851333/Australias-bushfire-crisis-continue-two-months-no-end-sight-firefighers.html

    The world has gone crazy: you have bushfires, we have a very stormy winter here, in Israel, (not seen since 1940) with fatal floods n Tel-Aviv (9 killed so far, including 2 young guys that got trapped in a flooded elevator.)

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    • You’re right, it is crazy.
      That’s a terrible way to die, trapped in a lift.
      And yet the latest round of climate talks failed. It beggars belief…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good post Lisa. I heard the premiere’s speech. I’ve been focusing my dollars on the animal funds. It is so distressing to watch all that is happening there. This could be going on anywhere in Australia so we don’t get complacent in Tassie. So far so good except for the northeast of the state. At least they caught the firebug here and he’s locked up.

    Like

    • The wildlife doesn’t bear thinking about: my neighbour got home from a gruelling flight home from Ireland with their two small children under three, and went straight out again to deliver towels to another neighbour who was collecting them for koalas. (BTW This is targeted giving of goods: the wildlife rescuers had appealed for towels, and had arrangements in place to get them to where they needed to be without getting in the way of the emergency services). Another friend of mine, I see from Facebook, is having a sewing bee to make little babysuits for wildlife, sort of like growsuits but no legs! Your money will go towards medicines, food, vet fees and so on, which is what they desperately need too).

      There is so much need…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Good ideas here Lisa. One other thing is that it won’t be just an immediate need but these communities will need support for months! It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so there will be lots of opportunities to do something.

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    • Yes, that’s true. One thing we can all do once things have settled down is to go down as tourists and spend money there:)

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  6. Great post Lisa – it’s so hard to watch and not feel the need to do something.

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  7. Thanks, Cathy:)

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  8. Thank you for this, Lisa – it’s so frustrating to be on the other side of the world and actually wanting to *do* something, so I can imagine your desire to take books. I’m glad you gave some wildlife links because they’re the ones in my thoughts at the moment – innocent of causing the climate change and the ones who’ll get left behind… :(

    Like

  9. Bushfires over here (WA) too, not that I’m short of books, though I might be if I’d been sitting at Caiguna for a week. Instead I’ve been sitting at home with every road out of the state closed – Nullarbor, fire; trans Australia rail access track, bogged idiots; Gunbarrel (Kalgoorlie-Alice Springs) flooded. Great Northern Hwy, cyclone.

    Last time I was trapped, Carnarvon floods 2008, they flew in wine and Christmas cake. Not sure what I did for books, though I always carry heaps with me.

    Like

    • Yes, I’d thought of you trapped by the Nullarbor fires, but I hadn’t realised you couldn’t go north either. I’ve heard reports of some shortages in WA due to supplies not getting through, is that so?

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      • Not noticeably. 80% of Perth freight comes by rail. And it used to be relatively cheap to use Singapore bound shipping out of the eastern states to WA, and I suppose it still is. (Melbourne-Perth by road is $8,000 for 20 tonne, the rail rate is similar, the box rate to Singapore used be around $1200)

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        • DO you notice any difference in the price of goods between WA and the eastern states?

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          • Fruit is sometimes a lot dearer. Vegies seem the same everywhere. And that’s all I buy.

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            • We always notice a difference in price outside the capital city but I guess that’s to be expected.

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  10. Hi Lisa, the fires here in NSW have been dreadful with one megafire not far from me we’ve but stuck in smoke and ash for weeks but thank heavens are pretty safe otherwise. Watching so many places I know and love burn and so many people and animals affected has been harrowing.

    We are having a scorching summer in an area that is known for it’s cool climate – heading into the 40s day after day in an area renowned for snow and cold weather it’s insane we are not transitioning faster out of coal mining etc etc etc.

    Yes they were asking on the ABC news tonight for people not to donate any more stuff but give money where it’s needed. I don’t know if NSW has a site like Victoria, people I knew were giving to the Red Cross and WIRES.

    Thanks for the lovely pic of the people reading with their dogs – all thankfully safe!

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    • Thanks for checking in, Sue, it’s good to know you are safe even if things are pretty awful.
      Let’s hope that China and the US who are the biggest emitters are taking note of what will happen to them and start showing some leadership in terms of world action on climate change.

      Like

  11. I see you’ve found givit. Great, as I was going to mention that. It’s worth noting that givit is good for donating all sorts of goods – and for others besides bushfire victims (like refugees, and various social enterprises).

    There’s a raft of groups providing goods – like #slabsforheroes which is here in Canberra – but as we know these groups are coordinating the goods so that they ask for and receive only what’s needed, and make sure it gets to those needing it.

    It’s longer term but it’s worth mentioning donating to climate change organisations too. I know/agree the immediate need is to help those suffering right now, but supporting climate change with money and/or activism is worth raising. AYCC is one option (besides broader orgs like ACF).

    Good post Lisa.

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    • Thanks, Sue:)
      I found another one yesterday: there’s a bookseller in Bega whose business is on its knees because the tourist trade has dried up, it’s called Candelo Books and I rang them yesterday to place my order. The poor fellow sounded absolutely exhausted but was very pleased to take my order…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes I decided yesterday to make some gift orders in the fire affected alps, where we were meant to be thus week. It’s not much but it’s something isn’t it. I’ll check him out too. There’s a gorgeous little town Southwest of Bega called Candelo where Georgia Blain set a book? It must be named after that.

        Like

        • Candelo, of course! I don’t know the area very well and I hadn’t joined the dots.
          There’s another spike day tomorrow and people east of Bairnsdale are being told to evacuate. The fishing village of Metung, where we used to have a holiday place at Chinaman’s Creek, is a worry, it’s a bit like Mallacoota geographically, and knowing what our place was like, nestled among the trees at the top of the hill, I imagine it’s indefensible.
          When this is all over, we’re going to need to spend some tourist dollars to get these places back on their feet.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, there’s a spike in SA today and then we in the southeast get it tomorrow. I’m learning more about climate patterns than I ever thought possible.

            And yes we will. Mr Gums and I will do our best… Probably over in the Tumut direction, for a start. We like to squeeze in mini vacations when we can and seem to manage more in the first half of the year than the second.

            Like

            • We gave up taking holidays during summer a while ago, but the off-limits area and the length of the season has grown.

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              • We usually go to the mountains just for 4 or 5 nights in early January. It’s always cooler than Canberra there. I hate travelling in winter unless I’m going north to the warmth.

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                • I *love* winter. It’s my Pommie genes…

                  Like

  12. I have 1000 books to sell or give away. No novels, but great history, art and travel books piled up loosely. How can I find someone to box up my books and drive them to a safe place?

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    • Hello, I’m not sure how to answer this. If you’re looking to donate them to support bushfire relief I’d suggest you get in touch with the Salvos or Brotherhood Books. I think they collect large items but I’m not sure about books. But they will be able to advise you, I expect.
      But if you want to sell them yourself, your options would vary from state to state. There are still some second-hand bookshops in Melbourne who accept books, but many of them are online now.

      Like

    • If you want to give them away, I think some Lifeline groups will pack up and take large donations like this – particularly if they sound highly sellable which these do. So, you could go to the Lifeline website in your city, if there is one.

      Like


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