Sunshine Coast Daily

Doing what we can for our countrymen

AUSTRALIANS have always stuck together in a time of crisis, but the response to the devastating bushfires in Victoria, especially in a time of growing economic crisis, is Aussie mateship at its finest.

As of yesterday, 173 people had been killed in the bushfires that are the worse natural disaster in our country's history.

There are grim predictions by emergency services on the ground that the death toll will exceed 230 people as police and army personnel have the grim task of sifting through more than 750 burnt-out homes, abandoned vehicles and charred scrub in search of the remains of victims.

More than 25 fires are still raging around Victoria with the flames coming within a 30-minute drive of Melbourne, and the fire front close to both the NSW and South Australian borders.

But even though here on the Tweed we are more than 1600 kilometres from ground zero of the horrific blazes in Kinglake, the human and property toll of the fires has left locals in a state of shock and has inspired many to help their fellow Aussies in need in whatever way they can.

So far more than $14 million has been pledged by everyday Aussies to the disaster relief funds organised by the Australian Red Cross and Salvation Army, with Australians - some struggling to make ends meet with the country facing recession and high unemployment - digging deep to give as much as they can for their fellow countrymen.

The Tweed Heads branch of the Red Cross is collecting donations in Tweed City Shopping Centre from tomorrow, so people unable to pledge money over the phone or internet can do their bit.

Tweed residents are expected to dig deep, if the $46,000 donated to the Red Cross appeal for victims of the South-East Asian tsunami in December 2004, collected over a two-week period at the shopping centre, is any measure of the depth of local generosity.

But not everyone can afford cash donations, which is why some local charities and community groups like the Salvation Army and the Minjungbal Museum in Tweed Heads South are acting as collection points for items like clothing, blankets and toiletries to lessen the burden for those who have lost so much.

Member for Tweed Geoff Provest has also organised a collection point for items at his Minjungbal Drive office and several local schools have organised appeals.

The board of directors and senior management of Tweed Heads Bowling Club will pledge part of their honorarium payments and wages to the fire appeal, and bowling members are considering a special charity roll-out to allow the community to express its sense of solidarity that is shared by most Australians over the tragedy, as well as adding to appeal coffers.

Several local businesses like Kingscliff Eagle Boys pizza will donate part of their profits to the appeals and local accommodation providers are rallying to offer subsidised holidays for fire victims, because sometimes distance is what is needed to heal.

There are great similarities between the fire-affected areas of Victoria and the Tweed and Northern Rivers region, with both areas renowned for their natural beauty which attract thousands of new residents looking for their piece of paradise every year.

These are also areas where generations of the same family have left their mark.

Commonalities aside, the Tweed is grieving along with the rest of the nation, and it times like this that we stick together.

Let's all send the message that we care to these families who have been fractured by Mother Nature's fury, and let them know we'll lift them up when they feel they can't get any lower.

Do what you can, because every little thing counts.

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