Bushfire Relief: Caring for Country People

Posted in Culture

Caption: From left to right is Liz Sampson, Damien Pearce, Marg Sawyer, Sharon Ashford, Vicki Jacobs, Jen Harvie & Shaun Patrick.


Since November 2019 South Australia has experienced an unprecedented number and ferocity of bushfires. These fires severely stretched the South Australian Housing Authority’s (SAHA) ability to adequately staff Emergency Relief Centres and as a result SAHA called upon their agreement with Uniting Country SA (UCSA) to provide staff who could assist in Centres providing a safe haven for people needing to evacuate from their homes.

Staff at the Centres provide care and comfort for affected people and also assist with finding motel accommodation and other essentials for people who are unable to return home during an event.

A call for staff to volunteer to be on an Emergency Relief Deployment list was made. This list is open to all UCSA staff, as no prior knowledge of what to do in a Centre is required. The response was fantastic with over 45 staff putting up their hand to be involved if required.

Since November 2019 UCSA has provided assistance as follows:

  • 6 staff members for the Stansbury Emergency Relief Centre
  • 2 staff members for the Minlaton Emergency Relief Centre
  • 7 staff members for the Mt Barker Emergency Relief Centre
  • 8 staff members for the Kingscote Emergency Relief Centre
  • 1 staff member for the Lobethal Recovery Centre
  • 1 staff member for the Parndana Recovery Centre

These staff members were deployed over a very busy time of the year, some giving up Christmas parties, long weekends and holiday plans to assist at Emergency Relief and Recovery Centres. Uniting Country SA has been overwhelmed by their staff’s generosity and care for people experiencing these horrific events.

Staff members who have been deployed have found contributing during a time of need to be a very fulfilling experience, as Sharon Ashford testifies: “Amazing experience. Amazing team. It was a privilege to help and to hear people’s stories of heartache and courage. We were very well looked after by our hosts. The communities of Mount Barker and Kangaroo Island were so welcoming. I would do it again.”

A huge thank you goes out to Uniting Country SA and its staff for their willingness to partner with SAHA and local communities in times of crisis, as well as to all those who generously support communities in need in a variety of ways.



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