The Best Ways to Help Australia During Its Wildfire Crisis

Avoid scams and put your money to good use

January 9, 2020 8:34 am
Flames burn through bush in Lake Tabourie, Australia
Flames burn through bush in Lake Tabourie, Australia
Brett Hemmings / Getty Images

The bushfires raging across Australia have already killed 24 people, displaced thousands more, cost the country billions of dollars and killed as many as a billion wild animals

You can help. But do it the smart way: don’t just contribute to any random Facebook fundraiser or email solicitations. Instead, take a few minutes to do your homework and figure out where you want your money to go. Fortunately, we’ve been able to solicit advice from both Australian friends and a few expats, which we’ve compiled below. 

Here are a few things to remember before you donate.

Your donations should be cash

“Donating blankets and other sorts of goods can overwhelm charities,” as Krystian Seibert, an industry fellow at Swinburne University’s Centre for Social Impact, told The Guardian. “The best thing that somebody can do to help is actually donate cash.” 

Know where your money is going

If you want to help wildlife, there are funds for that. Other fundraisers may be helping victims of the fire, the firefighters themselves, specific communities or any number of worthy bushfire-related causes. And realize that some of your money might be going just to help the charity organization itself — or a government agency, which is what’s happening to the tens of millions raised for the NSW Rural Fire Service. “People should understand, before they make their donation [to the NSW Rural Fire Service], that fundamentally they are making a donation to the NSW government,” as Michael Eburn, an emergency management expert at the Australian National University, noted this week.

A site like Charity Navigator can give you a historical perspective on how charities spend their funds.

Avoid scams

As the Australian Broadcasting Company notes, there were already 86 reported bushfire-related scams since September of 2019. Scams cited include people impersonating relatives of victims requesting money via phone or text, websites and crowdfunding pages impersonating charities and even people going door-to-door asking for donations. One way to avoid scams? Go with well-known organizations or check credentials on the Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission site.

Check social media and local publications for fundraising events

We’re based in New York, where nearly every Aussie-run business is hosting a fundraiser of some sort. They range from high-end (four- and five-figure tickets to the American Australian Association Arts Awards) to $20 concerts

Some more worthy causes to help Australia, its people and its wildlife:

Australian Red Cross: Donations have helped the organization deploy nearly 1,300 trained staff and volunteers to disaster-affected communities. BTW, this is where Ellen DeGeneres’s donations will be going.

WIRES: The NSW Wildlife, Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc. is a wildlife rescue organization in New South Wales/Sydney.

Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities: A GoFundMe page raising funds for First Nations people who have lost homes and property along the country’s East Coast.

Animals Australia: Provides support to expert wildlife vets and carers in fire-devastated areas. 

An injured koala joey at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty)

Wildlife Victoria: Funds go to wildlife shelters to help rebuild enclosures and equipment lost in the fires.

Australian Community: A New York-based, certified U.S. public charity collecting funds for charitable organizations providing disaster relief.

Victorian CFA: Support for those fighting the fires (equipment, community programs, etc.), with funds directed toward the CFA Brigades Donation Fund. 

Celeste Barber’s Fundraiser: The comedian has raised over $32 million on her Facebook fundraising page, with donations going toward the Trustee for NSW Rural Service & Brigades Donations Fund.

And a number of other worthy organizations can be found here.

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