Bushfires began in Australia in August 2019 and in early November they spread throughout New South Wales (NSW) due to high temperatures and prolonged drought. In early December 2019, the fires spread to Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, and in early January 2020, to the Australian Capital Territory. The fires burned over 27 million acres across Australia, with approximately 3,102 homes destroyed, including over 2,300 homes in New South Wales (ECHO Jan 31).
All Hands and Hearts has launched an Australia Bushfire Relief Program aimed at helping the communities of New South Wales recover from the devastation of the widespread bushfires over a year ago. Volunteers will be building sheds and toilet flatpack kits on the properties of landowners who still do not have sufficient water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) facilities. Working with our trained staff and the community in which we serve, volunteers will also be doing internal cladding and fit-out, installing water tanks, and completing various construction tasks around the properties.
In 2019, our Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) completed in-depth, ground assessments of two areas of South Australia (Kangaroo Island and Adelaide Hills). Simultaneously, we performed remote outreach and assessments of affected areas in Victoria and New South Wales (NSW). A program was established for Kangaroo Island. Unfortunately the program could not open due to COVID-19.
In early 2021, following our COVID-19 operational suspension, we started a new process to re-assess the need on Kangaroo Island and other regions. The assessment identified that recovery in Kangaroo Island had advanced considerably during the program suspension and no longer needed our assistance.
At the same time we re-assessed southern New South Wales, the worst affected region. The bushfires had devastated the Bega Valley Shire, wiping out livelihoods and destroying many homes. It was clear that within this region there was still a clear need where All Hands and Hearts could assist. In partnership with the Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC), Rotary Pambula, Social Justice Advocates and Service, All Hands and Hearts will support an urgent need for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) on landowners’ properties. This project will ensure that survivors have basic WaSH on their properties, consisting of a water tank, bathroom with a septic tank, and a shed for water catchment, storage, and to contain the bathrooms. The team has been welcomed by the community and look forward to ensuring these basic living needs are met.
A special thank you to our generous partner, Jefferies, for providing an initial 500,000 AUD grant to support the launch of our Australia Bushfire Program.
Our small staff team has set up a base in Bermagui and has been busy visiting properties and completing assessments with the BVSC Project Manager. Our first volunteers arrived on July 4 and work began on the Sanitation Project on July 6. To date, the team has supported one family with the construction of a shed for water catchment and commenced work erecting another. They’re also working one day a week at the Cobargo Community Garden, helping local day volunteers construct a shed, as well as supporting with other ad hoc work.
To learn more about the bushfires in Australia, watch the video below.