Connecting Through Community in Crisis

Connecting Through Community in Crisis

This bushfire season has been widespread and damaging. Sadly, the season will continue and it’s important that we stay prepared for what may come.

We thought it timely to share resources to help you learn more about how and where you can help, and how to access help if you are affected by the crisis.

Stay in contact through your local Congregation:

Local congregations are one of the unsung heroes of the bushfire crisis response, providing communities affected with a place to meet and share resources during the emergency. They are an important place to speak to someone openly in a time of need. Churches, unless designated, are not official evacuation centres.

During the season, extensive energy and time are being contributed around the clock by members of local congregations. As Rev. John Squires from Canberra Region Presbytery says, “this is the ministry of hospitality, which is fundamental to being people of faith”.

Canberra Region Presbytery, covers a large area of the south-east and central south NSW, areas directly impacted by the fires. You can follow their Facebook page for LIVE updates if you are in the affected area.

The Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network (DRCN):

A key contribution of the church during times of disaster is the provision of trained chaplains at evacuation centres in affected areas. When disasters strike, people are affected in every aspect of their lives, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. 

John Squires from Canberra Region Presbytery notes that “Right at this moment, [Chaplains are] sitting with people in evacuation centres, listening to their accounts of the fire, loss, and grief, soothing their aggravated fears, and seeking to provide practical assistance.”

Stephen Robinson is the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network. The Network coordinates with the Department of Communities and Justice, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Disaster Recovery services for evacuations.

Stephen runs a busy ministry. For ongoing updates about disaster chaplaincy follow this page.

The Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network (DRCN) is an ecumenical network of 330 chaplains established to assist people in NSW who have been affected by disasters and major emergencies within their communities. 

The network was established in 2009 by the Uniting Church of Australia Synod of NSW and ACT as a result of deliberations within the State Disaster Welfare Committee, which recognised the need for chaplaincy to complement the other welfare services within evacuation and recovery centres following major emergencies.

According to Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network (DRCN), Chaplains:

  • Provide pastoral presence and support to people and communities following disasters.
  • Participate in Recovery activities.
  • Provide resources, training and support to local ministry agents as they, in turn, support their communities in recovery.

Visit the official website for more information. 

How You Can Access Help from the NSW Government during Disaster Recovery:

During and after a crisis the NSW Government provides financial support to affected families and communities via the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). The Emergency NSW website has a breakdown of the types of support that can be accessed, and a full list of current evacuation centres that are open. If you are reading this and need to access an evacuation centre, please call the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444, open every day from 8.30 am to 4:30 pm. 

Follow the NSW Disaster Recovery Facebook page for live updates on the recovery focus around the NSW fires.

“A range of assistance measures are available to support people affected by bushfires. These are aimed at providing for immediate and short-term needs, to support recovery from the bushfires across NSW. Please note, a number of these measures have eligibility requirements.”

These measures include immediate emergency assistance, emergency temporary accommodation, clean-up assistance, animal welfare, and much more.

Keep an Eye on RFS Updates:

Keep the disaster recovery chaplains, and of course, the selfless volunteers from the Rural Fire Service, some of whom have lost their lives protecting communities, in your prayers.

Even if you are in a region that is currently safe from the crisis, keep an eye on the NSW Rural Fire Service page and Fires Near App for live updates. With changeable weather conditions throughout the summer, the fire spread and risk may change. Follow the advice of the RFS and local authorities. If asked to evacuate, your safety is the highest priority.

Ways to Donate to Local Communities and Wildlife:

Every contribution counts to help our communities affected by the fires. Consider lending a helping hand to affected families and communities today through a donation to the Moderator’s Bushfire Appeal. The Moderator’s Appeal goes to providing fast funding and essential resources to impacted families and communities.  You could also consider a contribution to the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly’s National Disaster Relief Fund.

An extensive list of ways to contribute to the bushfires, including wildlife specific causes, local businesses, firefighters and people on the ground, can also be found, here.

And check out Insights’ feature on everything we can do to help our furry friends.

Paul Sourlos

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