So far, it has been a horror summer in Canberra and much of Australia. And it’s not over yet.
The 133 bushfires currently burning in NSW along the east coast and area surrounding Canberra have destroyed so much already. Across NSW, Vic, Tas, WA and SA more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged. It is estimated that over 1 billion animals have perished, threatening the very existence of some native species, and tragically 28 people have lost their lives. The toll continues to rise.
In response to this catastrophe many organisations, and individuals, have swung into action to provide help and relief. And the global community is keen to support them in any way it can.
Donations of clothes, food, personal care products, fuel, water and money are rolling in. It has been inspiring to witness the generosity and humanity of people in Canberra and from all over the world in response to this unfolding tragedy. It is estimated that over $140 million has been donated thus far to Australian bushfire relief charities.
Social media has facilitated much of this incredible giving.
From pop-up community initiatives like the amazing #slabsforheroes, through to social media celebrities like Australian comedian Celeste Barber mobilising her followers to donate to bushfire recovery charities, social media is delivering the goods.
Slabsforheroes is a public Facebook Group created on the 11 December 2019 by Canberra woman Roseanne Howes. Roseanne wanted to help the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) with supplies of bottled water and electrolytes. After weeks of firefighting around Yass, Braidwood and the South Coast, these were the items the NSWRFS teams said they desperately needed.
The Facebook Group now has over 7,600 members with donations rolling in each day to storage space at Roseanne’s employer’s property, Australian Security Education & Consulting, in Mitchell. There is a roster of volunteers, called up from the Canberra community, working to deliver much-needed personal care packages of lip balm, water, lozenges, snacks, tampons and notepads to firefighters in the field.
Slabsforheroes estimate they’ve delivered over 70 tonnes of donated water, food and care packages to firefighters so far.
A phenomenal achievement powered by passion and made possible through social media.
Whereas the #Slabsforheroes Facebook group started with no existing followers, Celeste Barber had a supporter base of over 6.6 million Instagram followers when she started her bushfire relief campaign. Celeste’s personal experience of the fires in Eden, on the far south coast of NSW, motivated her to galvanise her followers to give to the bushfire relief program. The result has been astonishing!
The Celeste Barber Facebook Fundraiser page has received over 1.2 million individual donations. The total raised now exceeds AU$50,000,000 and sets a record for the Facebook Fundraiser platform. All donations go to the NSWRFS, a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC).
Local charities, like Canberra City Care, are using social media to gather the immediate and specific donations they need to support bushfire relief. On Saturday, January 4, Canberra City Care volunteers were preparing cooked meals for evacuees at Canberra’s emergency Fire Relief Centres.
They put out a call on their Facebook page for donations of lasagne ingredients – mince, tomato puree, onions cheese, mushrooms etc – to be delivered to their premises in Charnwood between 10am – 1pm that day. The response was immediate and generous. The volunteers received enough ingredients to provide hot meals to evacuees over that weekend and to freeze for delivery to evacuation centres at the south coast.
The scale of the devastation wrought by the ongoing bushfire catastrophe is frightening. People all over the world want to help in whatever way they can. Social media is providing individuals and charities with a fast, direct communications channel through which to connect and achieve social good.
Feature image by Lia Therese, #Slabsforheroes
Big Bang Social is passionate about the opportunity social media presents to not-for-profit and for-purpose organisations, no matter how big or small. To discuss how social media can help your organisation contact Big Bang Social for a chat.
And, keep a lookout for our FREE Big Bang Social workshops, exclusive to local not-for-profit and for-purpose organisations. Dates announced soon.