Celebrity Families

EXCLUSIVE: Turia Pitt's viral Spend With Them campaign was born in the thick of devastating bushfires - then, things took an unexpected turn

''There was a unique opportunity''.

By Jess Pullar
Turia Pitt's life looked vastly different 12 months ago.
Heavily pregnant and looking forward to a Christmas break with her family, the inspiring athlete and motivational speaker had all the makings of a summer to remember.
But the world had other plans.
If you cast your minds back, you'll recall last December being a turbulent time in Australia as catastrophic bush fires destroyed homes, crops and livelihoods across the country's rural landscapes.
You might also remember the thick smoke that spread into every crevice of our main cities - a constant, confronting reminder of the devastating impact the fires were having.
Turia, her fiancee Michael Hosking and their son Hakavai, now three, were caught up right in the middle of them - their home in the New South Wales' south coast was located in an area heavily affected by the fires.
At the time, Turia spoke of the terrifying experience.
"I watched, my mouth agape, as two angry plumes from the fires north and south of us joined together over Mollymook Beach. And then, the power went out," she shared on Instagram.

"It's been a tough few weeks for me emotionally. I've had to focus on not letting my emotions and own experiences get the better of me."
"I'm exhausted. I feel like I've done 10 marathons. And we can't relax because it's only the start of summer, and it's not over yet. So just like in a marathon, I've realised I have to pace myself."
But from the depths of the bushfires' devastation, hope sprung.
Turia's family (pictured here a few months after the 2019-2020 bush fires) resided on the South Coast of New South Wales. (Instagram)
As the magnitude of the fires set in, the pregnant mum saw an opportunity with her social platform - her Instagram alone amasses almost one million followers.
Why not utilise it? With thousands of people in rural areas staring down the barrel of a year of next to no income due to their homes and crops being destroyed, their communities split apart and facilities ruined, Turia decided to bring the rest of Australia to them.
From here, Spend With Them was born.
In an Instagram post shared on January 6, Turia announced to her following that Spend With Them would be a platform to feature businesses in fire-affected towns.
"Spend your money with the people and the communities who really, truly need it. They need you. We need you."
The page quickly went viral, with thousands of page follows overnight and growing into a hub for some of the creative, handy and essential goods made by the people who were struggling most.

Speaking to Now To Love in December 2020, a year on from the turbulent time, Turia is nothing but grateful.
"When we first started out, it was in response to the hectic bush fires in the towns around where I lived. It was pretty disastrous, so I wanted to profile the business people from those areas so others could find out about their business and help to support the local economy."
Its purpose was every bit as successful as Turia had hoped, and as the bushfire season started to ease up, things weren't looking so grim.
And that was when COVID kicked in.
Turia had only just given birth to her baby boy Rahiti when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. (Instagram)
"When COVID happened we realised [Spend With Them] was uniquely placed to profile businesses that have suffered from [the pandemic]," Turia tells us.
"We could share stories and businesses from small independents and encourage people to do their shopping through them."
Now, the platform has partnered with Visa to propel it even further into the minds of people across Australia.
"The bush fires really amplified how much we really care about each other and care about the little communities where we live. Spend With Them is an extension of that."
Turia utilised her Instagram following (of almost one million, no less) to shine a light on some of the talented small business owners in rural areas. (Instagram)
And so, you can bet Turia is encouraging everyone to spend with small businesses this Christmas.
"Not to be too altruistic about it, but I personally feel better about the purchases I've made when I know the money I've spent is actually supporting a real person. Not a giant conglomerate," she tells us.
As for her top stocking fillers? A personal favourite is Weave and Burrow's hand dyed tea towels, made in Mittagong in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
She also loves New Zealand and Tasmanian-based Storm + India's tea selection, especially given its packaging is 100 per cent organic and biodegradable.

Turia will spend a quiet Christmas with her growing family, with her 10-month-old son Rahiti now also enjoying the festivities.
She says being a mum to two boys has been a learning curve,
"The first few months were pretty crazy," she says,
"There was a lot of running and jumping and bouncing around. But now, they're at an age where they play together.
"I'm really enjoying spending time with them."
"The first few months were pretty crazy," Turia says of life with two young sons. (Image: Getty)