The generosity of Canberrans is always evident in the wake of disasters and tragedies, and the bushfire crisis proving to be no different, with many helping out those fire ravaged communites.
Canberrans have been offering accommodation, supplies and connection through a Facebook group, started only last week, that has already helped countless people in need. Now a closed Facebook group, it had 9,100 members as at 7 January.
The group’s founder, Alison Elliot, set up the page on Wednesday last week (1 January), in response to the mass evacuation of the NSW South Coast – believed to be the largest peacetime evacuation in Australian history. She said she saw a post on a Canberra noticeboard Facebook page from someone who had left the South Coast and had nowhere to stay in the Capital.
“All these people were offering their homes for them to stay,” Ms Elliot said.
She said she started the group as there appeared to be no coordinated response for accommodation for the influx of people into the ACT. She said “if this is the start of people being told to get out of there and being told to head to Canberra … this is going to get bigger and bigger”.
Ms Elliot said the group was initially flooded with offers for accommodation, and not many requests, but that soon changed, with people needing accommodation that also had space for caravans, horses and other pets.
“We’re also seeing other offers too; people are opening up their houses for people to have a shower, have something to eat or to just have a break if they’re passing through Canberra.”
She said people have offered activity vouchers to help keep kids entertained while they’re here, as well as things like food, fuel vouchers and clothing. One man has even donated the use of his old car, currently being used by a family who evacuated to Canberra, and after that it will be used by a couple in Bodalla who lost their home – all organised via the Facebook group.
Ms Elliot said as well as helping to match those in need with offers from the community, the group has also fostered social connection, especially for those isolated due to the fires.
“They’ve found a lot of comfort in being a part of the group and watching people getting help … It’s one of the places where they can keep track of what’s going on.
“It’s just amazing the things that are going on in there.
“I already knew that Canberra was a really generous place, I’m not surprised by it all, but it’s just amazing to see the level of generosity of people. A lot of people are saying to us ‘we just want to help in some way’.”