In a country largely blanketed by ash and orange flames, the major banks have stepped in to offer a collective $8.7 million toward bushfire recovery efforts.
With this year’s bushfire season beginning with unexpected ferocity, there are still hundreds of fires burning across the country. According to the NSW RFS, over 2,176 homes have been destroyed this fire season.
As families in fire-affected communities deal with rebuilding costs, as well as the economic burden of the crisis, donations are key to the support of their recovery.
Calls for donations have been met by all walks of life, and big business, small business, individuals and celebrities alike are all playing their part, including the major banks.
Of the banks, NAB has offered the largest sum, pledging a total of $5 million toward recovery efforts.
Of this amount, $4 million has been donated to the NAB Disaster relief fund, which includes the bank’s $2000 grants to customers who have lost their homes.
NAB CEO Ross McEwan says the scale of the bushfire has been devastating, and that they want to help their customers rebuild.
“People have tragically lost loved ones, homes, pets, livestock and livelihoods,” he said.
“We want to help those affected start to rebuild, with some immediate assistance to help our customers and colleagues deal with the impact – as well as support the long-term recovery effort.”
NAB has also extended its $2000 grants to include businesses and farmers directly affected by fires.
Commonwealth Bank (CBA)
Following CBA’s 7 January pledge to donate $1 million to the bushfire emergency, in recent days the bank has extended their involvement.
On Friday, Commonwealth Bank was the winning bid in the $1,007,500 auction of Shane Warne’s baggy green, with all funds going to the Australian Red Cross’ Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.
In addition, the bank plans to raise more money by taking the cap on a national tour, before then donating it to be a permanent exhibition at the Bradman Museum in Bowral, NSW.
Last week, the bank also announced that they would be more than doubling the value of their Bush Fire Recovery Grants, pushing them from $20,000 to a maximum value of $50,000 per grant. Through the scheme, the bank expects to fund projects worth at least $10 million.
The bank is also providing paid leave to all employees who are volunteering with emergency services as part of firefighting efforts.
On 5 January, ANZ announced that they would be pledging an initial package of $1 million to support customers and communities affected by the unfolding bushfire emergency.
This package includes $300,000 to volunteer fire services across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, $100,000 to match employee donations to the effort and $500,000 to support local community services and home loan customers affected.
They are also providing support to fire-affected communities such as deploying specialised mobile ATMs to ensure locals have access to cash.
ANZ is also supporting their employees with paid leave for those volunteering with emergency services.
In support of bushfire efforts, Westpac has established a $1.5 million bushfire fund. On Monday, they announced that they would be offering to pay one year off the mortgage for those customers who had lost their homes (up to $1,200 per month).
Westpac’s bushfire fund includes $500,000 worth of up to $2000 grants to help cover temporary accommodation, food and clothing for customers and employees whose properties have been destroyed or damaged. It also includes a $300,000 donation to state-based volunteer fire services and a $100,000 donation to the Victoria Bushfire Appeal.
The bank is also providing uncapped paid leave for those involved in emergency services, as well as counselling support.
The importance of ongoing donations
Although calls for donations have been met by widespread enthusiasm and generosity, charities say that the current donations are not enough for the ongoing support that will be needed.
Acting chief executive of the Australian Red Cross, Noel Clement, says that few understand that it is ongoing funding that is most vital, fearing that as the bushfires stop making headlines, funds will trickle.
“We can continue to provide support for as long as the assistance is there quite frankly,” he told ABC News.
“With the Black Saturday bushfires, we were providing support for 10 years…There’s still some support going out to some of those communities.”
Words by Kathryn Lee
If you are able to donate to bushfire recovery efforts, these are just some of the organisations seeking donations:
Affected communities – The Australian Red Cross’ Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund is working to provide short and long-term support to people and communities affected by the bushfires.
Wildlife – The NSW Wildlife, Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) is helping local wildlife affected by the NSW bushfires. In Victoria, Wildlife Victoria are seeking donations. Australia wide, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) are also seeking donations.
The Firefighters – Donations to volunteer firefighting services can be made through their respective websites: The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), The Victorian Country Fire Association (CFA), and South Australia’s CFS