Scouts in Australia are doing all they can to help those suffering following unprecedented drought and the worst bushfires seen in decades, which have devastated large areas of the country since the fire season started in mid–2019. From vast fundraising efforts for those who have lost everything, to blood donations, volunteer service as “firies” (firefighters), assistance at evacuation centres and wildlife rescue centres and the sewing of quilts and kangaroo pouches, Australian Scouts have not hesitated to put their Scout Promise into action. Read on!
At state level, Scouts in New South Wales (NSW) have opened up Scout halls to be used as evacuation centres and campsites as coordination points for the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and they have also worked with the Country Women’s Association (SWA) to run an evacuation centre out of their alpine centre. Scouts in Victoria have also made facilities where people can stay available to Emergency Management Victoria.
An Emergency Relief Campaign was launched in January by NSW Chief Commissioner, Neville Tomkins OAM JP, to do everything possible to assist Scouting families impacted by the fires or drought. NSW Rovers designed a badge to raise funds for the campaign and, as of early February, AUD 95,000 had been raised. A national badge has also been launched and AUD 150,000 has been raised from its sale. More info on how you can support the various Scouts Australia fundraisers on this page.
“Emergency services, fire-fighters and charity workers are providing round-the-clock support. Indeed, the defence of our precious, fragile land is being sustained almost entirely by volunteers. The stamina, dedication and sacrifices being made by the RFS and emergency services are simply extraordinary. Many also volunteer for Scouts NSW. They are true heroes. This is what community feels like. This crisis is much bigger than any of us, and for some of us, each other is all we have. As volunteers ourselves, it’s natural that we want to find ways to help. Baden-Powell once said, ‘You can’t afford to spend money on your own luxuries when there are people around you wanting the necessities of life.’”, said NSW Chief Commissioner, Neville Tomkins OAM JP
NSW Scouts have also distributed 7500 N95P2 face masks to communities in impacted locations, to protect them from air pollution during the bushfire clean-up. Scout offices at State and regional level have acted as collection points for handmade quilts to be donated to impacted families and the Scouts have also shared information widely on various ways to donate funds and blood, mental health first aid, practical ways to help and volunteer opportunities including assisting at evacuation centres, donating to foodbanks, volunteering with Australian Wildlife Rescue and more.
And at local level, there are a wealth of inspirational stories of courage and kindness from Scouts who have stepped up to do their bit for their local communities. Scouts such as 17-year-old Venturer Luke Meyers, from 1st Cobargo Scouts, who is also a member of the Bukajo Rural Fire Service, and worked 12-hour shifts with his team to fight the Werri Berri Fire in the Bega Valley. Devastatingly, one of the 1st Cobargo Scout Leaders, who is a volunteer with the local Rural Fire Service and had tirelessly worked to save numerous local properties in the town, lost his own home and business in the fires over the New Year, but thankfully managed to escape himself. Cobargo Scouts themselves were quick to step in, distributing donated items (food and general supplies) to people who have lost their homes and they've also held a "New Year Raincheck" to bring their community together.
Scouts from the 1st Glossodia Scout Group ran a BBQ fundraiser to support a local Cub Scout and her family who lost their home and business in Bilpin to fires on 21 December. Other Scouts have donated quilts, packed lunches and collected food donations to help those affected. Cub Scout Oscar Brennan and Joey Scout Spencer Brennan from Ulladulla helped carry hundreds of nappies to the Milton evacuation point to distribute to people who had lost everything.
Scouts from the South Coast region have helped to build 200 possum boxes to give to animal welfare groups to take into fire-affected bushland. They also built bird boxes. St Georges Basin Venturers made pouches to give to the Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation (WIRES). Broken Hill Scout Molly Molloy sewed “joey bags” for baby kangaroos orphaned by the fires.
Scout Bronte Mahaffrey was pictured in the news showing support for firefighters who had saved her neighbourhood and helped her mum make sandwiches for those tackling the blazes. Young Joey Scouts have sent thank you letters to the firefighters or “firies” as they’re known across Australia.
Australian Scouts from further afield have linked up with groups in the areas affected, for example the 1st Maclean Scout Group from the North Coast Region has established a buddy link with the 1st Batemans Bay Scout Group to provide direct support.
And outside of Australia, Scouts are showing solidarity and support and have raised even more funds to help, for example the 6th Tonbridge Scout Group in Kent, UK, has been raising funds and has linked up with 1st Cobargo Scouts in Australia, whilst another relief badge fundraiser run by Leonardo O’Campo, a Scout Leader from Group 8 Mexico City and Young BP Fellow, is well underway ( more news to come on this!).
On 13 February, the fires in New South Wales—the state most affected—were finally declared “contained”, after torrential rains marked the wettest week in the region in three decades... and Scouts across Australia will continue lead and support the country-wide efforts in all the communities affected to recover and rebuild.