$10 million to mobilise specialist volunteers from Western Australia, $10 million in immediate bushfire relief funding and a $50 million investment to support the development of a long-term blueprint for fire resilience were today announced by philanthropic organisation Minderoo Foundation.
Minderoo Foundation founders Andrew and Nicola Forrest said the unprecedented bushfire season, with large fires burning across the country, had devasted families, communities, industries and wildlife.
“With incredible courage and determination, Australians have united to help those devastated by these bushfires,” Andrew Forrest AO said.
“We can all be proud of the efforts we have witnessed across the country to support those fighting the bushfires, those affected by them, and those seeking to provide support to people and wildlife. We extend our deepest sympathy and hope to all those affected.
“At Minderoo Foundation, we want to provide immediate relief because, like so many other West Australians, we mourn the hardships of our fellow countrymen and women. We recognise that we don’t have all the answers, but we want to understand what communities need and do our bit to help them now and as they regroup in the coming months.”
Nicola Forrest said the tragic loss of lives, the scale of the destruction of homes and properties and the devastation to Australia’s unique landscape were difficult for many Australians to comprehend.
“In the weeks and months ahead, people directly impacted by these fires will need both practical and emotional support,” Nicola Forrest AO said.
“They will need time to grieve their loss and to deal with the trauma of the experience and they will need practical help to start the process of rebuilding their lives. While rubble that was once someone’s home might now be unrecognisable, it is still home.
“Beneath the ash, memories still exist, and these should be treasured. We hope Minderoo Foundation’s contribution will complement existing efforts, provide hope to those hurting and encourage others to help in any way they can – big or small.”
Minderoo Foundation’s Fire Fund comprises three distinct areas – response, recovery and resilience.
Minderoo Foundation has committed to mobilise volunteers from Western Australia to assist firefighting operations and recovery efforts in Queensland, Victoria, NSW and South Australia, in response to direct requests from relevant authorities and communities. At least 1250 volunteers are expected to be needed.
Travel and accommodation expenses for these specialised volunteers – including firefighters, medics, tradespeople, mental health workers and ground clean up personnel – will be covered by Minderoo Foundation. Minderoo Foundation will also leverage its networks in Western Australia to rally volunteers, equipment, supplies and funding, particularly from the resources and agriculture industries.
Minderoo Foundation has committed $10 million to fund the Response stream and will encourage others to donate, both locally and abroad, to at least match this amount.
This Response stream of work will be led by Chris Mayfield OAM, a former member of the Australian Regular Army who spent 26 years in senior leadership positions, including overseas deployments leading large teams throughout South East Asia and the Middle East. Chris is being seconded from Fortescue Metals Group where he is the Manager Training and Development.
The Minderoo Foundation Fire Fund project will help support communities rebuild and revitalise local economies in the aftermath of the bushfires.
The initiative will provide funds directly to communities, in collaboration with organisations such as Australian Red Cross and The Salvation Army, with all administration costs covered by Minderoo.
Minderoo Foundation has committed $10 million to start the Recovery fund and will encourage others to donate, both locally and abroad, to at least match this amount. The Minderoo Foundation Fire Fund project is now open for public donations at firefund.org.
The funding will be used to support the needs that typically emerge as communities regroup after a disaster, including repairing infrastructure, supporting local businesses, caring for wildlife and livestock or providing equipment essential to the recovery efforts.
Working with local organisations and alongside experts in relief and recovery including Australian Red Cross and The Salvation Army, Minderoo Foundation will consult with communities in the regions most affected by the bushfires to determine how best to assist, beginning in NSW (North Coast region, South Coast region, Southern Ranges), Victoria (Gippsland, Hume) and South Australia (Adelaide Hills, Kangaroo Island).
Minderoo Foundation previously provided assistance in the wake of the dreadful Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009, the 2011 Queensland floods, the 2016 bushfire in Yarloop, Western Australia and other disasters. Andrew Forrest has assembled an experienced team to manage this stream of work.
Minderoo Foundation’s Fire Fund project will also invest in building long term resilience by convening leading experts to develop a globally relevant national blueprint for fire and disaster resilience.
With the support of leading international non-profit environmental organisation Conservation International, these efforts will draw on existing research and expertise in Australia and overseas and accelerate innovation to develop new approaches to mitigate bushfires.
Focus areas could include climate change, mental health, science and technology, environmental conservation, water security and land management, among others. It is intended the project will address the factors that contribute to and cause natural disasters and the considerations that govern our response to such crises.
The project will also work to pilot new practices and invest in the application of evidence-based techniques and strategies. It will be led by Adrian Turner, an experienced international executive and founding CEO of CSIRO’s Data61, the data and digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency.
Minderoo Foundation will establish this project in early 2020 and launch a global effort to engage contributors and funders to raise approximately $500 million. Minderoo Foundation will kick start this fundraising effort with a $50 million commitment.
Minderoo Foundation CEO Andrew Hagger said the work of Minderoo Foundation’s Fire Fund project would commence with a small team visiting some of the worst hit communities in coming days.
“The first step is for us to listen, to ensure our efforts meet community needs and build on the great work already underway,” Andrew Hagger said.
“We want to work in collaboration with all the organisations and government agencies which are providing the crucial support needed to help people come to terms with the losses and start the rebuilding process.”