Australia’s Devastating Fires: Testimonials from Australians & How You Can Help | Top Universities

Australia’s Devastating Fires: Testimonials from Australians & How You Can Help

By Carly Williams

Updated January 28, 2020 Updated January 28, 2020

In the midst of the raging bushfires, every single Australian you speak to is unified in the face of tragedy, regardless of political party, environmental beliefs, age or race. The fires that began late last year have brought a tremendous amount of devastation to the nation. Homes have been wiped out, communities have been destroyed, and over a billion animals have perished.

The images of the fires have completely shaken individuals on a global scale. Dazz Braeckmans, resident of the Sunshine Coast, describes so eloquently what the world is thinking: “To put it simply, the fires are catastrophically beautiful. I’ve never seen images like I have in the last few months, and they are beautiful. But they are devastating.” 

Jake Guscott, a resident of Sydney, had a similar reaction that stunned him: “I was on vacation overseas when the fires started. When I returned, the sky was bright orange and there was a thick layer of smoke covering the city. Considering I live next to the beach and couldn’t have been further away from the actual fires, I was completely shocked.”

Australians are not the only individuals affected, with the country full of expats seeking the laidback Aussie lifestyle. Meg Dye, originally from the UK, speaks about feeling hopeless in a place that is not her native country: "You feel guilty if it’s sunny and you’re at the beach, and you feel guilty for enjoying a breeze because it means somewhere someone’s house might be burning down. It’s so hard to comprehend the size and scale of the fires. You feel helpless.”

In the midst of such devastation the country has truly come together as a united nation. Natalie Whittle of Perth states: “It really is so amazing to see that in light of a disaster like this, everyone rallies together and is willing to help each other out. Communities are coming together in a way we have never seen before. It really is the true Aussie spirit to lend the shirt on your back to someone in need.”

Dusty Mclean, originally from Coffs Harbour, where surrounding areas have seen destruction, has a personal tie to those working to put out the fires. “My dad works in forestry in Coffs Harbour. He is often called to command centers to organize different groups of firefighters in attempt to contain or manage fires, many of which are completely out of control,” Dusty remarks “My family has bags packed ready to leave the house at a moment's notice.”

While there is no doubt that the fires can be daunting, Aussies like Dazz Braeckmans sure haven’t given up hope: “There’s an ominous glow around Australians because no one is sure if things will ever be the same. But with all of the volunteers, firefighters, and generosity of Australians and especially those overseas, you can be damn sure we’ll try.”

But will it be enough?

Dazz adds, “I don’t know that I’ll ever know the answer in my lifetime. But my kids will know.”

Every encounter with Australians about the impact of the fires has one common denominator: frustration with the lack of government action. Dusty Mclean speaks about the irritation with the absence of government authority: “The biggest issue is that the government has seemingly done so little in response to the fires. It's sad that we have to rely on donations from celebrities rather than our government to fund this fight.”

Meg Dye has called Australia home for the past two years and feels the wrath of the political climate now more than ever: “I feel angry that I can’t vote here, and I feel angry that my voice isn’t heard. I’ve never really cared about my vote in this country until now.”

It is impossible to ignore the issue of climate change as a key player in the severity of these fires. The reality is and always has been that Australia’s dry climate is a match to a flame when it comes to bushfires. Dazz Braeckmans notes, “Fires are natural and good and expected, but this…this is something else entirely. Mother Earth is telling us to pull our heads in and start paying attention.”

With awareness of these issues rising comes the urgency to take action. Dusty Mclean observes, “The one good thing I believe will come out of this is it has really brought the climate issue into light. We can’t ignore it any longer.”

Is it climate change? Is it arson? Is it bad management of prescribed burns? While this is unclear, the action that is taken now will determine the future of Australia as a nation. Fires aren’t entirely preventable and are necessary for regrowth, but the severity of these could have and can be avoided in the future.

How can you help?

Want to make a difference? Consider donating to one of the worthy causes below (every penny counts!)

This article was originally published in January 2020 .

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