Since Christmas or even just before, parts of Australia have been, and in some parts still is being ravaged by horrific bushfires. As Australians we are used to living alongside these dangers, however this year has proved to be particularly shattering and injurious both to human life and wildlife.
Victoria has recently witnessed a most overwhelming, vast and engulfing fire in the Gippsland area. Gippsland is an exquisite agricultural region located along the South Eastern coast. With snowfields for those of us who prefer it cooler, to pristine forests, unspoilt beaches, and much more for tourists.
Unfortunately, most of these places have gone up in flames and now the residents who rely on heavily on farming or tourism are in despair and wondering, ‘Where do we go from here?’.
Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) is a small, unique community organisation that has been around for over 40 years and is one organisation in a sea of many supporting bushfire affected families.
Established in 1978, it is funded by donations from businesses, community groups and even individuals. All of those donations are returned to the community and no costs are deducted as the charity is run by volunteers.
Residents residing in the Gippsland areas of Bass Coast, South and East Gippsland, Latrobe, Baw Baw and Wellington who suffer loss or hardship as a result of bushfire, floods and any other acts of nature that affect their principal place of residence are given assistance.
Funding focuses on personal losses such as food, shelter, clothing, bedding and children’s educational needs, as distinct from capital items more often covered by government grants or insurances.
When an emergency event happens a field assessment team gathers data and then relays it to the Council Operations Centre, which works closely with GERF. The Committee of Management has the responsibility and final decision on distribution of funds. Any surplus is held by the fund for future relief in the above regions.
Since the dramatic and highly publicised bushfires began in Mallacoota on New Years Eve, the Fund has raised over $3.8m and have approved more than 900 referrals from community members who’ve either lost their homes or experienced severe property damage.
So this Thank You Thursday, we say thank you to the volunteer team behind GERF and all those in the community that have supported this fund. Wishing the communities of Gippsland strength and positivity as they recover and rebuild.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick
* Images sourced from Gippsland Times *