Members of the Uniting Church in Australia continue to be actively involved in assisting communities ravaged by the current bushfires.
Our Synod has a number of ministers who have been specially trained as members of the Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry and they have been busy supporting those in need almost from the moment the first fire materialised.
Synod is also moving to expedite extra support for supply and relief ministry to spiritually and pastorally assist churches and their communities in bushfire-affected areas.
The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and its community services arm, Uniting VicTas, has been mobilising a whole-of-church effort to help communities deal with the immediate impacts and assist with the longer-term rebuilding of lives affected by the catastrophe.
This effort is being channelled from the ground up by UCA congregations and agencies local to bushfire-affected. They are ideally placed to recognise the most pressing needs and provide effective assistance.
Crisis support that has already been provided by Synod and Uniting staff, UCA volunteers and congregations includes:
- assisting with emergency accommodation, including motels, for those evacuated from fire zones
- sending three tonnes of replacement stock to the Sale op shop after it sold out of goods, with more resupply planned
- helping look for evacuees in Wodonga, at one point numbering about 180 people
- distributing fuel vouchers and non-perishable food.
As a partner with strong links to local Gippsland agencies, Uniting supports them by identifying and filling specific gaps in the help they provide (for example, at one stage there was a lack of children’s underwear to give out).
As these needs are constantly changing, the best way people can offer support is by donating money to the Uniting Bushfire Appeal (see below) and specify it is to buy urgently needed goods.
Synod and Uniting will also put into place resources and programs to aid the longer-term recovery of individuals and communities affected by the bushfires, including the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). These supports will include:
- ongoing support for children through services aimed at parents and early childhood educators through Uniting’s childcare facilities
- psychological first aid and trauma counselling for both individuals and the broader community
- suicide prevention, drug and alcohol support offered through services such as Lifeline, Griefworks, ReGen
- financial counselling – offered in person where this is normally provided by Uniting and as phone counselling in other areas
- family services, with a focus on a domestic violence, noting that there was a 400 per cent spike in family violence after the Black Saturday bushfires.
Donors to the Uniting Bushfire appeal can designate their funds go towards these longer-term recovery efforts.
Pilgrim Theological College and other equipping Leadership for Mission staff are writing and collating prayers, reflections and service materials, which will be gathered into a one-stop online hub of bushfire-related resources, also including material from Assembly and links to external resources. When these are ready they will be placed on the VicTas Synod website.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Frontier Services Bushfire Relief Appeal
Money donated will aid trauma counselling and emergency relief to people in the Gippsland area.
Self-help toolkits and information factsheets can be downloaded here.
To read the Moderator’s pastoral letter, click here.