Adventist Solidarity on Display as Bushfires Rage On in Australia

Local churches are bringing much-needed relief to shocked residents and animals.

Maryellen Fairfax, Adventist Record, and Adventist Review
Adventist Solidarity on Display as Bushfires Rage On in Australia

As Australia reels from the ongoing destruction caused by multiple bushfires across the country, Seventh-day Adventists have rallied together to make a difference. A list appears below — to be periodically updated — of churches and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) teams battling the devastation the fires have caused.

Fresh Fruit and Generators

Responding to an appeal made by ADRA Victoria director Rebecca Aurient, Nunawading Seventh-day Adventist Church has contributed a shipment of personal-care packs for victims of the Gippsland fire disaster.

Led by Nunawading ADRA leader Mike Tarburton, and supported by Casey and Pakenham church ADRA teams, a Facebook callout was made to church members, requesting that personal care items be brought to the church the next morning (on Saturday [Sabbath], January 4) for collection and delivery. Dozens of care packs were assembled.

Many others who did not see the announcement contributed cash that was used to purchase apples, apricots, strawberries, plums, tomatoes, and cucumbers to satisfy the cravings expressed by firefighters and victims for “something fresh.”

Retired pastor and Nunawading member Tony Campbell contacted Orient Energy Systems, who helped him find donors to purchase and deliver eight portable generators at a discounted price. Further cash donations from Nunawading members were sent with the generators to provide them with fuel.

“Active ADRA teams and responsive church families produced an astounding amount of needed items in a very short span of time,” said Nunawading member Shirley Tarburton. “[We are] thankful to have an opportunity to supply a need and hopefully make a difference.”

Fabric Pouches for Burned Animals

A group of Victorian Adventists and friends banded together to sew pouches and wraps for animals burned in the bushfires.

Emma Wood, a home economics teacher at Edinburgh College, was first introduced to the idea after being added — alongside others who could sew — to an online animal welfare group.

“Thankfully, many in Emma’s family can sew, and so she made a few phone calls, and we all met at the school classroom, where there is much fabric deemed ‘too ugly’ for people but perfect for animals,” said her husband, Josh Wood.

Five sewing machines were set up, as well as ironing stations and cutting stations, and the group spent five hours making 13 pouches (a total of 52 pieces sewed altogether) as well as nine bat wraps.

As the pouches were made from summer-appropriate material, Wood has purchased additional fabric and plans to make some “winter pouches” as well.

According to official estimates, anywhere from 500 million to a billion animals have been lost during the bushfires, with millions of others injured.

Essential Items to Worst-Affected Communities

ADRA in Victoria, in conjunction with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, has been supplying personal hygiene packs to relief centers and contributing food to families in need.

With more than 24 individuals volunteering with ADRA — a third of whom are not church members — the team has quickly outgrown the ADRA premises due to an influx of donated goods.

“We had two businessmen offer us two warehouses,” said ADRA Victoria volunteer manager Merilyn Beveridge. “Forklift drivers have offered us their forklifts [to transport goods onto trucks]. It’s been amazing!”

With three vans available, ADRA volunteers have been transporting supplies to the worst-affected areas.

“It’s challenging because we have to get permission each day to go on those roads; sometimes they’re open, sometimes they’re not,” Beveridge said. “We’ve mainly done food, water, personal hygiene packs, and generators for communities that have lost power.”

Due to light rains yesterday, the roads in Victoria are accessible once again, allowing some families to return to their properties and assess the damage.

“One of the critical needs now is cleaning packs,” Beveridge said. “Dishwashing, clothes washing, and household cleaning especially. There’s a lot of silt and grime. Also generators for people who have lost power. Crisis fencing is also a big need, because some cattle have survived, but the fencing is destroyed, as well as feed for sheep and goats.”

Along with food and hygiene packs, ADRA is providing furniture to people who have lost their homes, as well as temporary accommodation.

“We’ve been able to respond and have a significant impact because, for a year now, we’ve been running a food bank program and reaching the community,” Andrew Wilson said. “They trust us. We don’t care if they’re Christians or not; we just care for everyone.”

The original version of this story was posted by Adventist Record.

Maryellen Fairfax, Adventist Record, and Adventist Review