Providers lean in during bushfire crisis

WDEA Works CEO Tom Scarborough, CoastAid Garry Roberts and Tom O’Connor, and WDEA Works Director of Communications and Engagement Andrea Hogan present a fundraising cheque to the Warrnambool bushfire appeal

WDEA Works CEO Tom Scarborough, CoastAid Garry Roberts and Tom O’Connor, and WDEA Works Director of Communications and Engagement Andrea Hogan present a fundraising cheque to the Warrnambool bushfire appeal

This story was first published on Tuesday 4 February 2020. If you wish to use this content, please contact to confirm that the information is still current.

As bushfires ravaged the NSW south coast throughout December and January, local jobactive providers dug deep to deliver on-the-ground practical and fundraising support to help local communities get back on their feet.

We spoke to four providers to find out more.

WDEA Works

Chief Executive Officer Tom Scarborough said he was proud of the leadership shown by WDEA staff in organising and supporting community fundraising events for bushfire victims.

“Working in 37 regional towns across Victoria and South Australia over the past few weeks we really have seen the power of music and bringing people together,” Tom said.

“Our Horsham employment consultant Nicholas Bamford is a bass player and singer in a band that performed at a fundraising event at Horsham, helping raise over $17,000 for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal and WWF.

“We sponsored ‘Band Together Colac’, a community concert that featured an astounding 30 music acts and raised over $42,000 to support the Australian Red Cross. In Warrnambool our sponsored ‘Find Your Voice’ choir headlined the bushfire appeal over the long weekend, helping raise over $17,000.”

WDEA Works Communications and Engagement Director Andrea Hogan worked with the volunteer organising committee for the Warrnambool event while WDEA helped with marketing resources and financial support.

“As a not-for-profit organisation we are committed to adding value to communities and improving people’s lives,” Andrea said.

“What a fantastic way to show communities devastated by the fires that we’re behind them.”

Campbell Page

Chief Executive Officer Natalie Turmine explained that in the wake of the disaster locals needed immediate access to emergency information and to office facilities to keep their business running, apply for disaster assistance, complete paperwork, and copy identity documents.

“Adding an Emergency Support section to our website, we were able to provide up-to-date advice on financial assistance, temporary accommodation, and health and wellbeing,” Natalie said.

“We also opened our offices in Batemans Bay, Moruya and Ulladulla to anyone who needed access to computers, printers, scanners and the internet and offered free wi-fi, copying and scanning.

“There were also local organisations and businesses that had lost their premises, so we made our facilities, office space, desks and meeting rooms available for their use.”

Campbell Page also sent staff to the Disaster Recovery Centre in Batemans Bay to provide specialist assistance to homeless youth and residents affected by unemployment.

MAX Solutions

Managing Director Deborah Homewood said while the bushfires forced the closure of their sites in Batemans Bay, Bega, Narooma, Merimbula, Moruya, Eden and Nowra, staff worked hard to reopen as soon it was safe.

“We offered residents access to our phones, computers and facilities until power and communications could be restored,” Deborah said.

“Narooma staff noticed volunteer firefighters were sleeping on the floor between shifts, so we donated 10 camp beds so they could rest comfortably. We also delivered essential supplies including food, water and hygiene items to the Batemans Bay site and these were made available to anyone in need.”

Further supporting efforts to rebuild, MAX staff secured 40 full-time jobs in welfare support and labouring for job seekers in the local community and positioned a psychologist in Batemans Bay.

“Aurellia Sardjono is now providing support to employees, customers and the wider community as they work to find their new normal in the aftermath of the bushfires. We also established a helpline to provide mental health support to everyone, not just our customers,” Deborah said.

Deborah said that during and after the crisis, MAX employees had gone above and beyond their usual roles to support their community.

“Some have volunteered as firefighters, wildlife carers or been drafted in as Army reservists. We believe this work is essential to the communities’ ability to rebuild, so MAX is ensuring employees continue to be paid while volunteering and do not need to use personal leave entitlements.”

Workskil Australia

Chief Executive Officer Nicole Dwyer explained that Workskil Australia is the sole jobactive provider on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island.

“We’ve been helping job seekers, particularly those who lost their jobs or had their hours cut due to the fires, access emergency welfare and Centrelink, and connect them with work opportunities that are emerging in the wake of the fire,” Nicole said.

“There’s a lot of restoration and repair work that needs to take place on the island now, so we’re identifying job seekers and helping them get training they need to take part in this work — chainsaw use, welding, asbestos removal certification, and construction.

“Five residents will work with Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber to remove burnt trees and repurpose them as much-needed fence posts for the island.”

Workskil is planning a range of projects and social enterprises in partnership with residents, including retail, construction, clean-up and removal of burnt vegetation, revegetation, and temporary accommodation and childcare.

“Emotional support is just as important as practical support,” Nicole added.

“We’re recruiting an additional person on the Island to help deliver employment services as the caseload unfortunately is growing due to the impact of fire wiping out half the Island and a lot of primary industries”.

We acknowledge and appreciate all our providers for generously delivering support and assistance within their own communities in ways big and small. 

Correct at time of publication.