by ALEC SMART
The apocalyptic bushfires raging across Australia, incinerating millions of hectares of forest and decimating an estimated 1.5 billion animals, are bringing out the best and, unfortunately, the worst in Australians as we work together to solve the crisis. Over $35million has been donated to the Red Cross Disaster Response and Recovery Fund since the start of 2020, just one of many charities dealing with the ongoing emergency..
However, the NSW Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has requested an end to unsolicited donations of toys, clothes and furniture, which OEM spokesman Jeremy Hillman warned cannot be processed.
“Unfortunately, what usually happens is local communities become overwhelmed very quickly with donated goods,” he said. “Individuals think that that’s the best way to help, to fill up a car or a truck or a shipping container with clothes, furniture and toys, but the reality is hundreds, if not thousands of people start to do that and then converge on these impacted areas.
“We do not need any more food; we do not need any more clothes. Give money,” he pleaded, “support the local businesses and the communities.”
**Scroll down for a list of forthcoming bushfire charity concerts and ways to donate**
Unfortunately, despite communities rallying to aid others throughout this national crisis, and high-profile personalities and companies donating millions to bushfire charities, there have been cynics and fear-mongers who have capitalised on the disaster to prey on others for their own nefarious gains.
The worst of the worst are surely the looters, some allegedly impersonating NSW Police officers, targeting towns like Batemans Bay, where residents fleeing advancing bushfires have returned home later to find their homes burgled, with children’s bicycles, household items, jewellery and personal effects stolen.
Other cynical opportunists include the politicians spreading the dubious allegations that the Green Party are responsible for allowing fuel to build up by preventing backburns and locking the gates of national parks to deny fire officers access – falsehoods repeatedly dismissed by fire chiefs and forest management experts.
And of course the climate change deniers, who after initially blaming exploding horse poo and other ridiculous causes, continue to assert that most of the fires are the result of arsonists. Of 183 people charged with breaching fire bans, only 24 have been charged with deliberately lighting fires.
Climate change deniers are unable to accept that the prolonged drought and record temperatures associated with global warming, backed by scientific consensus and tens of thousands of expert analytics, don’t deserve merit and dismiss them as a left wing conspiracy.
ScoMo, our dim-witted Prime Minister, who took his third holiday in a year when bushfires accelerated to catastrophic levels, has since blundered from one photo opportunity to another making ill-informed and insensitive statements. After delivering a small Woolworths’ shopping bag of groceries – reportedly containing a few energy drinks – as his personal bushfire relief donation, he reached a new low by grabbing the arms of angry victims and exhausted firefighters who tried to avoid him, in order to force them to shake his hand, then turned his back on the volunteer firefighters pleading for help.
Special mention must also go to conspiracy theorists who’ve spouted delusional assertions that the federal government deliberately lit the bushfires in order to destroy rural towns and drive everyone into cities. Apparently this policy of ethnic cleansing was launched to facilitate construction of ‘smart cities’ on fire-cleared vacant wasteland, linked by a new high-speed rail network.
The fact that this requires colossal levels of organisation from a government unable to manage a picnic on Parliament House lawn, whilst thousands of participating public servants keep the secret without whispering it to journalists waving wallets full of cash, is beyond the overactive imaginations of the flat-Earthers and chemtrail conspiracists fuelling this daft rumour.
But it’s not all gloomy doom-mongering. The wonderful spirit of cooperation and philanthropy for which Australians are renowned has drawn diverse communities together in this time of national crisis. From kids running cake stalls, to bands playing benefit concerts, to communities organising fundraisers, to celebrities gifting donations, to workers sharing their time, people have come together to raise money that provides valuable aid to volunteer fire fighters and fire-relief charities like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, St Vincent’s, and animal welfare groups.
* The Paul Ramsay Foundation, Australia’s largest philanthropic organisation, are donating $30 million to support communities affected by the bushfires. An initial $3 million will be provided to Red Cross, the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and St Vincent De Paul to aid immediate relief efforts, the rest to long-term projects with impacted communities.
* Comedian Celeste Barber has so far raised over $47 million for The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund, to support bushfire relief efforts in Australia. It is the largest Facebook fundraiser globally, Facebook told Business Insider Australia.
* West Australian iron ore magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and wife Nicola announced their philanthropic arm, the Minderoo Foundation, would donate $70 million to relief efforts and build the nation’s long term resilience to bushfires. However, critics claim that only $10m of this is allocated for relief organisations like Red Cross and Salvation Army. The majority of it – $50m – is to set up his own ‘fire and disaster’ thinktank that will look for a “globally relevant national blueprint” to develop new approaches to fire resilience, which he claimed were primarily caused by arsonists.
The other $10m was to enlist a ‘volunteer army’ of over 1200 tradies and health workers from Western Australia who could be deployed to assist the recovery of regions devastated by bushfires. “We are putting together a small army of 1,250 skilled personnel from first-aid, emergency first responders, tradespeople, electricians, carpenters, project managers, construction and clean-up personnel,” he declared.
* Actor Leonardo DiCaprio‘s environmental organisation Earth Alliance donated US $3million (approx. A$4.3 million).
* Former spin-bowling cricket talent Shane Warne, Australia’s all-time leading wicket-taker, donated his green flat cap to a charity auction. The cap, worn throughout his 145-match Test career for Australia, where he took 708 wickets, sold to the highest bidder – Commonwealth Bank – for $1,007,500 and came with an autographed certificate of authenticity. The money was donated to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.
* Australian actor Chris Hemsworth (Thor in the Avengers Endgame film) donated $1million to rural firefighters.
* Elton John pledged $1million towards bushfire relief efforts during his 7 Jan concert at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.
* Ash Barty, female world number one tennis champion, has pledged to donate her entire $382,000 prize winnings from her finals clash against Kiki Bertens at the Brisbane International Tennis tournament on Sun 18 Jan to the Australian Red Cross.
* Kylie and Danni Minogue and their family are donating $500,000 to the firefighters.
* American pop star Pink took to Twitter on 4 Jan and pledged $500,000 to Rural Fire Services.
* Actress Nicole Kidman and her husband, country music star Keith Urban, are also donating $500,000 to the Rural Fire Services.
* Billionaire businessman James Packer pledged $1million to the NSW Rural Fire Service in Nov 2019, plus his casino, Crown Resort, and the Packer Family Foundation have since donated $4million between them to volunteer fire services in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia and charitable organisations helping animals and people.
* Kylie Jenner, media personality and cosmetics company owner, pledged $US1million ($A1.5 million) to five bushfire charities in an Instagram post where she declared “This breaks my heart” at the news of the estimated billion animals that perished in the bushfires. The 22-year-old reality star was then labelled ‘hypocritical’ when, just hours later, she posted a photo of herself wearing mink fur slippers.
Nevertheless, $200,000 of her pledge has gone to the Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland, who plan to purchase fire-mapping computer tablets. The association has only one, but with Ms Jenner’s donation plus another $300,000 from other sources, the association can buy 500.
* OnlyFans naked models Kaylen Ward, Emmy Corinne and Jenna Lee sent nude photos of themselves to people who could prove they donated at least $10 to organisations fighting bushfire and supporting victims. Controversially, Instagram closed the account of the idea’s founder, Kaylen Ward, for being ‘sexually suggestive’, although the naked photos were only sent to those who communicated to her privately with their donation receipts. The trio have allegedly raised over $500,000.
* American heavy metal band Metallica has pledged to donate $US500,000 ($A750,000) to the NSW Rural Fire Service and to the Country Fire Authority in Victoria to aid the relief efforts.
* The Australian Football League (AFL) announced a State of Origin Aussie Rules match at Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, on Friday 28 Feb, to raise funds to help rebuild football facilities destroyed by the bushfires. The game will involve players from teams across the national league. The AFL is also donating an additional $2.5million to the cause.
Sydney Swans AFL team also set up a GoFundMe page to aid Australian Red Cross, which has so far raised over $10,000.
* Lewis Hamilton, six times Formula One world champion and outspoken environmentalist and vegan, is donating $500,000 to WIRES, WWF Australia and rural fire services towards the rescue and care of wildlife caught in bushfires.
* Australian actor Eric Bana donated a framed pair of jeans he wore in the 2000 film Chopper to Lloyds Auctions Bushfire Relief Charity Auction. A signed copy of Jimmy Barnes’ Working Class Man album and an electric guitar signed by Bon Jovi are also available in the same auction.
* Australian hip-hop band Hilltop Hoods donated $25,000 to the CFS Foundation, which supports volunteer firefighters in South Australia.
Other corporate and financial institution donating significant amounts to bushfire charities include NAB ($5million), Coles ($4m), BHP ($2m), Westpac Bank ($1.5m), Woolworths ($1.5), Commonwealth Bank ($1m), ANZ Bank ($1m), Rio Tinto ($1m), Orica ($1m), Perich Group ($1m), and the Pratt Foundation ($1m).
Further help has come from:
* Buddhist monks form the Sunnataram Forest Monastery in NSW providing relief massages to volunteer firefighters from Wingello Rural Fire Service.
* Moslem men from Lakemba mosque Masjid Ali Bin Abi Talib in Sydney’s west drove six hours to Willawarrin, near Port Macquarie, to host a free barbecue lunch for bushfire victims.
* A group of women from the Australian Islamic Centre in Newport, Melbourne, raised $1500 in donations and five trucks of supplies in just 48 hours. They then drove four hours to Johnsonville, Victoria, to distribute the relief and make breakfast for exhausted firefighters.
* In Clapham, London, where many ex-pat Australians live, Two Brewers gay bar is hosting a 12-hour charity fundraiser on Australia Day (Jan 26), with all proceeds going to assist rural firefighters and Australian wildlife.
* Rock band Midnight Oil sold a signed Blackfella / Whitefella Tour 1986 poster on eBay and raised over $3000 for the Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities.
* Long Beach Rural Fire Service were given some complimentary underpants by Step One Underwear. The firefighters have agreed to participate in a photoshoot that will result in a sexy fundraising calendar of them shirtless wearing their helmets, boots and blue or yellow boxer shorts.
* Sydney Opera House is lighting up its iconic sales every night between 11-18 Jan with images of firefighters and emergency personnel to say ‘thank you’ for their incredible efforts battling the catastrophic bushfires.
* The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs allocated €50,000 to the Australian Red Cross to support them in aiding disaster victims, confirmed by their Foreign Minister, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu.
* American comedian Nick Kroll, on tour in Australia, is donating his fee from his Melbourne and Sydney shows to the NSW Rural Fire Service in a fundraising campaign he has launched with Australian actor Joel Edgerton called #fightfirewithafire.
* Harley Streten, aka Flume an Australian DJ and music producer, is donating $100,000 to WIRES wildlife rescue.
* Described as the ‘Army of Angels’, a convoy of 150 trucks, laden with provisions and animal feed left Bairnsdale in Victoria to deliver essential supplies to fire-ravaged communities in East Gippsland. Another convoy of over 25 trucks travelled from Ballarat with hay for stock feed. “We’re taking everything from dog food, cat food, sheep feed, hay, toothbrushes, you name it,” said organiser Malcolm Leys from East Gippsland Livestock Exchange.
* Award-winning chef Matt Moran announced he and the Solotel Hospitality Group, which co-manage several of his restaurants, are contributing $10,000 for every venue they own – totalling $280,000 – towards the Rural Fire Services of NSW and Queensland.
* Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is also auctioning an exclusive lunch for two where he’ll feature some of his ‘new favourite recipes’. The highest bid will be donated to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.
* Taronga Zoo announced the proceeds from their annual Twilight at Taronga open-air concerts in the grounds of the zoo will be redirected to their own wildlife crisis appeal so that the vast numbers of Australian wildlife in their care that have been affected by the bushfires receive adequate attention and recovery.
The twilight concerts, which begin on Fri Jan 31 with Broods and continue until Sat March 7 with a sold-out comedy gala starring Kitty Flanagan and others, also feature Wolfmother, Pete Murray, Sunnyboys, Paul Kelly, Kasey Chambers, Abba-tribute Bjorn Again, Bernard Fanning, James Morrison, Meg Mac and Mavis Staples.
The Original Wiggles Reunion Show for Bushfire Relief
Who: The Wiggles
Where: Castle Hill RSL, Castle Hill, Sydney
When: Fri 17 Jan + Sat 18 Jan @ 8pm
Out of Bounds Fire Relief
Who: Illy, The Rubens, Mallrat, Trophy Eyes, Alex the Astronaut
Where: Campbelltown Athletics Centre, Campbelltown, Sydney
When: Sat 18 Jan @ 1pm
Bushfire Relief Comedy Show
Who: Wil Anderson, Matt Okine, Becky Lucas, Zoe Coombs Marr + more
Where: Giant Dwarf Theatre, Redfern, Sydney
When Sat 18 Jan @ 7.30pm
Inner West Music Fest
Where: Pratten Park Bowling Club, Ashfield, Sydney
When: Sun 19 Jan @ 2pm
Australian Open Music for Relief
Who: Jessica Mauboy, Montaigne, Lily Papas
Where: Australian Open Tennis Championship, live stage, Melbourne Park, Melbourne
When: Sun 19 Jan @ 3pm
Who: Blues Collective, Ross Ward, Finn, Dave Tice, Keith Todd Trio
Where: The Bridge Hotel, Rozelle, Sydney
When: Sun 19 Jan @ 4pm
Who: Daryl Braithwaite, John Paul Young, Megan Washington, Jack Jones, Margaret Urlich, Leo Sayer, John Waters + others
Where: Bong Bong Picnic Racecourse, Bowral, NSW
When, Fri 24 Jan @ 2pm
Who: Hockey Dad, Tumbleweed, Dune Rats (DJs)
Where: Windang Bowling Club, Wollongong
When: Fri 24 Jan @ 4pm
Ryan’s Rocks for Red Cross
Who: 19-Twenty, Ruby Tuesdays, Mac Tango, Sketchy Fancy
Where: Ryan’s Hotel, Thirroul, NSW
When: Fri 24 Jan @ 6pm
MoshPit Bushfire Fundraiser
Who: White Knuckle Fever, Syntax Error, Beijing Bikini, RMM & Bin Chickens
Where: MoshPit, Erskineville, Sydney
When: Fri 24 Jan @ 7pm
Bushfire Relief Dance Party
Who: 343 Brass Band, .ilex, Tears for Beers
Where: Annandale Creative Arts Centre, Annandale, Sydney
When: Fri 31 Jan @ 7pm
Bushfire Benefit Show
Who: Friendlyjordies (comedy)
Where: Paddo RSL, Paddington, Sydney
When: Fri 31 Jan @ 7pm
Punk/Hardcore Fundraiser for Victims of Recent Bushfires
Who: Darkhorse, Frank Rizzo, Swine, Numbskull + others
Where: Moshpit, Erskineville, Sydney
When: Sat 1 Feb @ 4.30pm
Who: charity dinner
Where: Bopp & Tone, Wynyard, Sydney CBD
When: Sat 1 Feb @ 7pm
Sydney Sings for Hope
Who: Makisig Morales, Brian Anderson & Brothers Keepers Band, 2019 Miss Earth + 2019 Mr Universe
Where: Bowman Hall, Blacktown, Sydney
When: Sun 2 Feb @ 5.30pm
Bushfire Benefit Show
Who: Honest Crooks, Staunch, The Wandering, Big Nasty, Volatile Ways
Where: The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
When: Sat 8 Feb @ 8pm
Fire Fight Australia, National Concert for Bushfire Relief
Features: Queen + Adam Lambert + others TBA (possibly Alice Cooper and Cold Chisel)
Where: ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park, Sydney
When: Sun 16 Feb @ 1pm
Comedy Steps Up for Bushfire Relief
Who: Tim Minchin, Arj Barker, Kitty Flanagan, Joel Creasey, Julia Morris
Where: Sydney Opera House forecourt
When: Monday 16 March @ time TBA
Band Together 2020 Bushfire Concert for Southern Highlands
Who: Christie Lamb + supports
Where: Venue TBA, Picton, NSW
When: Sat 28 March @ 10am
St Vincent de Paul
Rural Fire Service (RFS)
County Fire Service Foundation (CFS)
Koalas In Care
GoFundMe for First Nations’ communities affected by fire