Amidst the worst bushfire crisis to ever hit Australia, it’s easy to focus on the negatives.
So far in this unprecedented bushfire season, 29 people have died, 10.7 million hectares have burned, an estimated one billion animals have been killed and over 2,000 homes have been destroyed. Air quality all over the country has been affected, with both Sydney and Canberra registering some of the worst air quality index readings in the world. The situation is bleak, and despite milder weather conditions, the fires are still burning. But Australians are nothing if not resilient, and while the bad news far outweighs the good right now, there are some positive stories coming to light amidst the darkness. From Instagram comedians raising more money for the victims than our own government to teenagers transforming cars into koala rescue zones, here are some local legends worth praising in print.
I know, this one kinda goes without saying. BUT, right now, tens of thousands of volunteer firefighters are working insanely long hours/days/weeks to help save people’s homes and battle hundreds of out of control blazes that burn across the country. Along the way, they are helping save kangaroos and koalas dying of thirst and leaving notes like the one above for homeowners to find upon return to their homes. Because Australia’s government is a loathsome pack of climate denying tightarses led by a religious nut who fled the country mid-crisis to get lei’d in Hawaii, there have also been multiple reports of firefighters using their own money to buy much needed supplies, including masks and medical equipment like eye drops.
Prior to January 3, 2020, Celeste Barber was best known for taking the piss out of social media celebrities on Instagram. When the fires hit especially close to home (her in-laws became trapped by fire in their hometown of Eden, NSW) Celeste started a Facebook fundraiser initially aiming to raise $25,000. Eleven days later, she’s raised over $51 million for firefighters and victims of the fire—officially making it the biggest fundraiser Facebook has ever hosted. Along the way, she’s tirelessly updated her social media channels with updates from those on the frontlines of the fires as well as sharing important information about donation centres and firefighter supply requests. Seriously, watching one of her Instagram stories is ten times more informative than watching the news, and roughly 51 million times more valuable than our current prime minister. Yesterday, she announced she’ll be hosting a huge bushfire benefit concert on February 16 featuring Queen and Adam Lambert, Alice Cooper, KD Lang, Daryl Braithwaite, and Baker Boy, among others.
Koala Rescuers & Carers
Over the past few weeks, countless images and videos of burned and helpless wildlife have flooded social media. Each one is as awful as it sounds, but every now and then there are some flickers of hope among them. Last week, 19-year-old Micah and 18-year-old Caleb drove around Kangaroo Island to rescue as many Koalas as they could. Apparently by the end of the day, they had filled the car with about 20 koalas before taking them to the wildlife park to be treated. A rep from Ellen requested they get in touch in the comments of their YouTube vid, so safe to say these legends will be world famous by this time next week.
Over in Cudlee Creek, South Australia, volunteer firefighter Adam Mudge rescued eight koalas and took them to a home nearby to drink and hang out for the afternoon. And of course, let’s not forget Toni Doherty, the woman whose shirtless photo went viral for all the right reasons after she used her own clothes to save a Koala (RIP Lewis) burning in Port Macquarie. Meanwhile, The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital (which is the world’s first rehab facility dedicated solely to the care and preservation of wild koalas) has been treating countless injured koalas from fire affected areas across the state.
Turia Pitt and her ‘spendwiththem’ initiative
If anyone could be forgiven for fleeing to Hawaii during these fires, it’d be Turia Pitt. After suffering horrific burns to 80 percent of her body from a grassfire in 2011, you’d understand if the Australian athlete wanted to get the hell out of here. But instead, not only has she stayed put, she’s also launched the incredible project @spendwiththem on Instagram. Every day, she profiles a bunch of small businesses and their owners who have been directly affected by the bushfires and encourages followers to order from their online stores. It’s an awesome way to show support and help those who are struggling financially as a result of the fires, while also introducing you to local Australian brands you mightn’t have heard of before.
God bless carrots. They’re good for our eyes, high in fibre, and a source of life for hungry Australian wallabies. Over the last few days, carrots (and sweet potatoes) have been falling from the skies since the NSW government began food-drops to help feed the state’s colonies of brush-trailed rock wallabies. Dubbed ‘Operation Rock Wallaby’, more than 2,200kg of fresh vegetables have been dropped from planes over Capertree and Wolgan valleys, Yengo National Park, the Kangaroo Valley, and around Jenolan, Oxley Wild Rivers and Curracubundi national parks.
If you want your faith in humanity restored, head over to the Tradies for Fire Affected Communities facebook page. Since its inception less than two weeks ago, over 9,000 carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and tradies of all types have offered free services to those who have lost their homes, farms, sheds, and other structures. A quick scroll through the feed lists everything from free excavation services to digging and laying pipes. Hundreds of requests are answered every day, with multiple offers of support in each and every comment section. Bloody fantastic, really.
Sukhwinder Kaur and Sikh Volunteers Australia
After the fires hit East Gippsland, 35-year-old Melbourne woman Sukhwinder Kaur cancelled her first trip back to India in ten years to visit her sick sister to instead stay and cook meals to feed hundreds of fire victims. As the head chef of Sikh Volunteers Australia, Sukhwinder and others from the Sikh community in Melbourne’s south east have been providing free vegetarian food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at The Bairnsdale football club. When she was interviewed by SBS about her tireless work, Sukhwinder said, ‘I realised my first duty is towards the community here where I have lived for so long. If I had left the people here during such a difficult time, I don’t think I could call myself a good human being.’ CC: Scott Morrison.