Responding to the Australian Bushfires

Bushfire Recovery and Philanthropy 

March 2020

While the immediate threat has eased, the true impact of the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020 is still emerging. The journey to recovery will be a long one for our fire affected communities, families and businesses, stretching over many years and decades. Philanthropy has an integral role to play in changing the way we respond to deal with bushfire crisis.  

Individual giving, immediate response and early recovery  

Philanthropy Australia acknowledges the capacity and expertise of charities and relief organisations to provide immediate response efforts in these critical situations. Australian charities have been working overtime to provide immediate support, and many charitable organisations in fire affected areas have themselves been impacted by fire.  

Charities provide vital support to those in need during times of crisis. As local responders, they have a unique role to play in building trust with those who have been affected by fire and identifying and advocating for the specific needs of impacted communities. We must support the charitable and for-purpose sector to build and maintain capacity to enable them to continue this essential work.    

The outpouring from individuals to support immediate relief and early recovery efforts has been phenomenal. We encourage members of the Australian and international communities who are looking to make a donation to consider giving to recognised, trusted and well-established charitable and for-purpose organisations, who are positioned to provide immediate support where it is needed the most. We also encourage individuals to consider supporting organisations that provide medium to longer-term support and giving on an ongoing basis to provide support over the coming months and years.  

We have compiled a list of some of the many and varied organisations and appeals individuals may wish to consider giving to. 

The Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN) has also developed a searchable resource list to help individuals direct funds to organisations across the country that are taking a variety of approaches to the bushfire crisis; from immediate support through to longer-term systems and policy change. 


Philanthropy’s key strategic role in changing the way we deal with bushfire crisis 

The current crisis is not an isolated event - it’s part of a continuous series of environmental occurrences that create disaster, loss, and danger and changes our land, wildlife, people and communities. We acknowledge the threat and damage that bushfires and environmental issues pose to our landscape and ecosystem, and many philanthropists are putting their funding toward these areas.  

Philanthropy is uniquely positioned to be able to take a strategic pan-event perspective to this ongoing crisis, looking at community and environmental resilience and adaptation over a number of years, if not decades.  Philanthropic funding is perfectly positioned to sustain long term, generational capacity and capability.  

Underpinning all strategic philanthropy is the goal to change the underlying causes and systems that create inequalities and problems.  Philanthropy’s ability to support and undertake research and advocacy to help achieve critical, complex system change is a clear, critical contribution.   

Unlike other types of funding and support, philanthropy can step back and wait to see what is needed after the first collective support from community and government is deployed. Philanthropy can identify gaps in funding and resources, identify areas for further or different support, and channel funding to support those communities and people who fall outside the ‘system’ response.  

The common principles and practices of effective philanthropy are just as relevant in our discussion on how to respond to the bushfires as to all other work: taking our lead from communities themselves; acting in partnership and collaboration, collectively sharing information through to genuine collective design and action; taking the time to use an evidence base with a thoughtful considered approach; and working with adaptive learning cycles to refine and iterate our work for maximum positive effect and impact.  


Philanthropy Australia members can find additional resources in the Better Giving Hub

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