Over the holiday break, the entire world has been inundated with heart breaking images of the devastation caused by the bushfires that are raging wildly out of control in Australia. Today, we woke up to news that rain has finally started to fall across the country, bringing some relief to fire fighters and those in the direct danger zones – but this doesn’t mean we can afford to look away. Now, you may be wondering why – in a blog completely dedicated to Ibiza – we are reporting about news from the other side of the world. The answer is simple: White Ibiza is a brand that was founded by Australians, is run by Australians and employs Australians on the island. We love our adopted home of Ibiza, but right now, our motherland desperately needs our help. So with that in mind, I ask you to please, forget about Ibiza (if only just for today) and turn your attention down under…
For once in my life, I am (almost) without words to describe the deep loss and gut-wrenching sadness I feel when looking, from afar, at what’s happening to my home country. There isn’t much I can tell you that hasn’t been said by people far more knowledgeable, more eloquent and indeed closer to the tragedy than I am. Most of us are aware of the truly horrific statistics, but if you aren’t, here’s a quick recap: over 18.6 million hectares burned, 28 lives lost (three volunteer firefighters and 25 civilians), 2,683 homes decimated (among 5900 buildings destroyed) and an estimated ONE BILLION animals killed – and these numbers are sadly growing by the day. It’s quite hard to fathom – the numbers of animals, insects and birds killed is almost beyond comprehension. But it’s a cold hard fact. Scientists are saying the fires will cause the extinction of many species unique to Australia – it’s not just the cute beady-eyed koalas who are getting all the news coverage that are at risk.
Photo: Matthew Abbott for The New York Times
If you’re not from Australia, or haven’t travelled around the country beyond its major cities, you may not be able to grasp the vastness of it all – to put things in perspective for Europeans, the fires have completely decimated land mass that is almost equivalent to the size of England or Ireland; that exceeds the size of Paris; that would go from Andorra, Lleida, Girona and Tarragona on the outskirts of Barcelona, cross the entire city and jump the sea to reach Ibiza and Mallorca. You can see more on the map here. When I look at it, I can’t help but think of a poem about Australia we were forced to learn in school when I was a kid: My Country by Dorothea MacKellar and wonder if our landscape is going to have changed so much after the fires so that the poem won’t mean anything to future generations.
Mackellar wrote of her love of our ‘sunburnt country; a land of sweeping plains; of ragged mountain ranges; of droughts and flooding rains.’ She continues on to speak of ‘her beauty and her terror’ understanding all too well how Australia – for all its glory – can indeed inflict hardship on its inhabitants; but she also spoke of regeneration: ‘For fire and flood and famine; she pays us back threefold.’ All Australian expats (of a certain poetry learning age) around the world right now are hoping she was right, and are probably feeling the way MacKellar did when she wrote the poem’s final verse: ‘An opal-hearted country, a wilful lavish land. All you have not loved her; you will not understand. Though earth holds many splendours; wherever I may die; I know to what brown country; my homing thoughts will fly.’
And there, wouldn’t you know it, I’m crying again just from recalling something that as a child, to be really honest, I thought was boring! Never has it felt more apt. I have never ever felt so simultaneously far from home and yet connected to my roots. What is happening in Australia has shaken us to the core; it’s irrevocably changed not only our landscape and environment, but who we are as a nation. Indeed, it’s brought a country together – watching the heroic deeds performed by normal, everyday human beings (from our brave ‘firies’ and invaluable animal rescuers to volunteers and more) via satellite makes me far more proud to be Australian than I have ever felt before.
You may have seen in the newspapers that the government in Australia is currently being slammed for many reasons – from neglecting its duty to perform the back burns that could have helped prevent some of these fires; for its lack of climate change policy, and its poor contributions to the relief efforts. True, all of it (again, better journalists than me have reported on this – I urge you to seek them out), but I believe that now is not the time to get into politics. We can’t go back in time to prevent any of this from happening, but we can act to help those affected and those who need help now. Now is the time to help, in any way you can. If, like me, you feel helpless on the other side of the world (every inch of my being wants to go back to Australia and become a volunteer in an animal shelter right now), there are many ways you can act. Donate – anything is better than nothing. Can you sew or knit? Make joey pouches, crochet birds’ nests. The effects of this apocalyptic few months are going to last a lifetime, so the sooner we pitch in the better.
Now here’s the part where I am asking – no, I am IMPLORING you – to take ten or so minutes out of your day and do something to make a difference. Whether you donate 10€, 100€ or 100,000€ or more (I’m thinking of you here, my dear friend Chris Hemsworth for your million dollar contribution), it is ALL needed. I think it’s important that YOU decide where your money goes, so below is a selection of charity links I recommend you choose from, but of course, feel free to do your research and donate to whatever organisation you like – just check it’s verified.
If (like me) you want your donation to go directly to helping animals (those poor little creatures who cannot possibly help themselves) – from veterinary services and medical supplies to delivering food supplies (did everyone see it ‘rain carrots’ for the wallabies?) and helping to restore the natural habitats, these charities can help:
If you’re watching the heroic efforts of the firies and are recognising how limited their resources are, donate directly to the state fire services below. Maybe you have a soft spot or friends and family in a particular state. Maybe you want to split your donation across the country. The choice is yours.
And finally, if you’re the type to be influenced by your favourite celebrities (no judgement, I promise!), then these two are by far and away the most reliable sources to send your hard-earned cash too. And I just want to say: Celeste Barber – you are my absolute hero, and should stand up and be counted alongside the heroes of our nation right now due to your incredible fundraising efforts – the largest EVER fundraiser in the history of Facebook. You little beauty!
There’s so much more I wanted to write. I wanted to write about how my mother has been living in an evacuation zone (thankfully, the fire diverted and her home is safe) and how, I didn’t even consider where she lives as the ‘bush’. I wanted to tell you how I used to walk to school through a gully every day (oh OK, I often bunked off and just hung out in the gully) where koalas really truly lived in the treetops. I wanted to tell you about the time I saw a wild kangaroo in the street outside a holiday home we’d stayed in on the south coast. I wanted to conjure up all the amazing memories I have as an Aussie kid, learning about possums, sugar gliders, wallabies, echidnas, kangaroos, koalas, dingoes, emus, kookaburras, goannas, cockatoos, galahs, tree frogs and crocs of course, and I just took them all for granted as part and parcel of our environment.
But I can’t. Because every single time I try to think back to those things, all I see are the images of THOUSANDS of charred animal carcasses in the bush – well, the space formerly known as the bush – that have been flashing up on the news all week. Seeing their little paws all balled up and their bodies twisted in pain and torture, as they’d tried to flee flames that were just far too ferocious for anyone to survive… thinking how horrific their final moments must have been. Once you’ve heard a koala scream, it’s a sound you can’t un-hear. And here come the water works again – I can’t see my screen again for tears. So what I will say is this. Please, please, please do whatever you can to help. Because even when the news fades and isn’t on the front page anymore, we need to keep in mind that this is not the last we’ve seen of the bushfires – it (terrifyingly) is only just the beginning…