It has been about a year since we experienced some of Australia’s worst bushfires on record. It was such a time of fear and tragedy for so many, and a terrible beginning to what has been a tough year.
GMP, through our related organisation GMP Extend, launched a Bushfire Appeal at the beginning of January. It was our first ever such appeal and $143,350 was generously given.
What has happened with those funds?
We consulted with local churches connected to the affected areas and focussed on those locations that had fewer resources available. We sought to ensure that the funds were made available to those most directly impacted.
The Lenswood Church or Christ is right in the midst of one of the impacted areas. They launched an outreach ministry to assist people in their community who had lost everything. ($18,000)
Walter, from the church, reported that they found this was a time-consuming task as people debriefed, shared their experiences and showed him the devastation that had occurred. One neighbour had lost their shed, earthmoving equipment and tools. Walter had come with a $200 voucher, not realising the severity of impact, and so returned later with a gift of gladioli from his wife. The lady of the house told him they had decided what to do with the voucher. They were going to buy fruit trees to plant. When they had grown, they would sit in their shade and recall those who had donated these trees.
Guided by the church we also provided support for Lobethal Bushfire Recovery Centre, we supplied vouchers to replace tools (not usually covered by relief payments), helped feed animals and provided support to families. A total of $41,000 has been distributed.
The communities of East Gippsland were hard hit by the fires. While Churches of Christ does not have a direct presence in several of the areas, Churches of Christ CareWorks affirmed that the work of the Anglican Diocese of Gippsland, through the local Anglicare service, could be relied upon to provide support to those most vulnerable. ($20,000)
New South Wales
The Conference of Churches of Christ in NSW also ran an appeal and GMP sought to work cooperatively with them. We consulted with Brian Dickson, a Churches of Christ Minister and SES Chaplain in Eden. We knew he had a strong local ministry focus. His advice was that we direct support to the local Anglicare Agency, which we did in the amount of $20,000.
Ray Flint, a retired Anglican Church Army officer, has been diligently getting about finding his way into lots of hidden spots in the areas behind Eden. People have chosen to live in secluded places away from society and Ray battles through some challenging trails to locate those who need to be helped.
It's not uncommon for Ray to tell me he's been able to help a particular person using the 'Church of Christ' money.
Feedback from local people and churches indicated that Blaze Aid is a very important agency that, with the use of volunteers, is able to assist farmers in replacing fences. Their focus is on those who are less likely to receive either insurance or other financial assistance. ($9,000)
After we indicated that we would give to Blaze Aid, one person contacted us to say that they had just returned from a Blaze Aid Work Party and were deeply impressed by what is being achieved.
One of the future challenges for Australia is the management of fire in the Australian Bush. Firesticks is an Indigenous-led research body investigating traditional ways of fire management. ($9,000)
A small gift of $2,000 was given to the Kangaroo Island Lord Mayor’s Fund.
In addition, there are always costs to run an appeal like this – receipting, website, fees, following up those we have assisted and meeting compliance requirements ($14,000). The final distributions totalling $10,350 will be made by the end of December and the appeal will be closed.