Local News

Brave volunteers and kind strangers: The unsung heroes of the devastating bushfires

Amidst the crisis, there have been some silver linings.

By Alex Lilly
For the last few months, the Australian media landscape has been dominated by stories of death and devastation caused by the bushfires affecting the country.
Homes have been destroyed, some 500 million animals have been killed and the country now holds the title for the worst air quality in the world. But despite the tragedy, some Australians have risen and given us hope in humanity.
Comedian Celeste Barber has made international headlines after setting up a Facebook fundraiser for the Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund.
The page has raised over $34 million and is still going up with many calling for her to be the next Prime Minister due to the fact she has raised more money than the Australian government has contributed.
From local heroes such as Megan Gale, Magda Szubanski and Sam Wood to international stars including Pink, Selena Gomez and Zara and Mike Tindall, we've seen many famous faces donate and lend their support. Tennis champ Ash Barty even promised to donate any prize money she wins at the Brisbane International to the Australian Red Cross.
But they're not the only ones. Keep scrolling for the unsung heroes, the everyday Aussies whose acts of kindness and heroism are what we should all be looking up towards.
Firefighters from across the country have braved the blazes. (Image: Instagram @luppo23)
The brave firefighters across the country are undoubtedly some of the biggest heroes of the past few months, but you may not have heard of this exceptional group.
In Lake Tyers, eastern Victoria the Australian Women's Weekly met with Australia's first all-Indigenous, all-female fire brigade.
Led by 52-year-old Charmaine Sellings, the group of mothers and grandmothers are the backbone of the remote Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust, a self-governing Aboriginal community in the State's far east.
"We are the lifeline if anything goes wrong, so we have an important role to play, and I think people are generally very grateful for what we do," Charmaine says.
"There was a sense of helplessness before we came along but we feel empowered that we can look after ourselves and our people whatever the situation. The community is proud of us and they value us."
52-year-old Charmaine Sellings heads up Australia's first all-Indigenous, all-female fire brigade. (Image: Supplied)
In Mallacoota, Victoria, five children on holiday in the town near East Gippsland took rocks and shells from the beach and wrote messages of thanks to the firefighters who protected them from the blazes.
According to Nine News, the firies were brought to tears by the messages and the idea came about from one of the children's dads.
"We're gonna keep on doing it and keep on passing them over to the firies and make them a bit happier and thank them," one of the kids, Rosco, told The Today Show.
A group of children from Horsham on holiday in Mallacoota have written messages of thanks to the local firefighters. (Image: Sam Cucchiara)
A group of Sikh volunteers also made headlines for all the right reasons when they drove for over three hours to provide free food for bushfire victims.
According to a report by SBS News, volunteer Jafwinder Singh said that "preparing the food and bringing it down here from the [Melbourne] base is impossible. It's a four-hour journey and we can't keep that food for that long", so in another act of kindness, locals have helped out by providing kitchens for them to use.
Fellow volunteer Manpreet Singh said "we will stay here until the situation gets normal".
Victoria Premier Dan Andrews even tweeted his support calling the volunteers "legends."
People are also opening their homes to victims who have lost their own to the bushfires.
Accommodation company Airbnb is encouraging hosts to offer their listings to displaced residents and emergency service workers and the program will be in action until January 17 across New South Wales and Victoria.
According to 7 News Airbnb spokesperson Susan Wheeldon said, "Our thoughts are with these regional communities during this incredibly challenging time, as well as with those working selflessly and tirelessly to contain the blazes."
"We are very grateful to those hosts who have already opened their homes to provide free housing and we encourage others who live near affected areas to consider doing the same, if they are in a position to assist."
When Channel Nine reporter Brett Mcleod and his crew needed somewhere to stay in Lake Conjola, NSW, where they was covering the fires, local resident Pete offered to help.
The journalist shared Pete's note on Twitter that offered not only accommodation but to help themselves to filtered water and anything in the fridge-freezer.
"I can't thank him enough," Brett added in his tweet.
It's not just people who these incredible Aussies are helping- animals are also being looked after by these local heroes.
When water tanker driver Damian Campbell-Davys spotted a young koala emerging from fire-ravaged bushland, he let the little marsupial drink from his water bottle for an hour and a half.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Damian was there to fill up the tanks of fire trucks in the NSW Southern Highlands and called the koala "a little ray of sunshine in this nightmare."
Damian nicknamed the koala "Tinny Arse" after a friend Liz "who always wins at the races." (Image: Kate Geraghty)
Too cute! (Image: Kate Geraghty)
Patrick Boyle, 22, entered the eucalyptus forest in his home town of Mallacoota and rescued eight to nine koalas and took them to a local wildlife centre.
Despite some being in better health than others, the Victorian local said that as far as he knows, all of the marsupials are improving.
"Mallacoota has always been well-known for the tight community and looking out for one another, which is fantastic," he told the Today Show. "Really makes it a lot easier and helpful when we have such a small close community because everyone is just doing what they can… Good spirits in the air, even though so much has been lost."
Patrick Boyle, 22, rescued between eight and nine koalas from burned bushland in Mallacoota, Victoria. (Image: Renae Bruce)

Want to know how you can support those affected by the bushfires?

Here's how to help the firefighters

These organisations are helping animals in need

Koalas are particularly at risk during these times. (Image: Adam Mudge)