The bushfires that have been ravaging Australia this summer have generated a global outpouring of financial and in-kind support. We’ve witnessed many heart-warming stories from across Australia from our emergency services, the Australian Department of Defence, charitable groups and our every-day heroes.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been donated in aid of Australia’s disaster recovery, with unprecedented donations and fund-raising efforts. Local, state and federal Governments have also responded to the crisis with financial commitments towards recovery initiatives.

Celebrities both at home and overseas have highlighted many causes including the plight of Australian flora and fauna, support for first responders and impacted communities, policy responses to ongoing environmental concerns such as climate change and learning from First Nations people who have protected this Country as the traditional custodians of this land for millennia.

So where do we go from here?

Much of the news commentary has focused on ‘How Australia can brace for the inevitable bushfire threat?’ and ‘Why we weren’t prepared given the catastrophic weather conditions leading into the summer of 2020?’. Not surprisingly, the press and the community are also asking ‘What can we do to prevent this happening again?’

The bushfire problem can no longer be ignored, however, there are an overwhelming number of issues to tackle including:

  • how bushfires could be prevented or minimalised
  • how we can better prepare for bushfires
  • how we can better respond to bushfires at the time
  • how we can support the communities and environments affected following the events.

Building fire-fighting capability through the AET discretionary grants program

In 2015, we worked closely with the Country Fire Services Foundation (Foundation) via the AET Discretionary Grants program with the aim to build greater fire-fighting capability by investing in the next generation of Country Fire Service (CFS) volunteers in South Australia.

The Foundation’s mission is to provide immediate financial assistance to volunteer firefighters and their families who have suffered through death, injury, loss or damage of property while in the line of service. Another key objective is to enhance the fire-fighting capacity and expertise among CFS volunteer firefighters through fellowships, education and professional training.

It was in this capacity, that we supported a leadership development initiative aimed at building the capacity of the CFS’ Youth Advisory Council. With an ageing volunteer force, the Foundation identified the need to attract and retain young volunteers and build leadership potential and capability in the next generation of volunteer firefighters.

The AET Discretionary Grant program provided a $30,000 grant to support twenty CFS volunteers aged 18-30 years from across South Australia. The volunteers met at the CFS training facilities in Brukunga for a three-day leadership program

For more information on this project, please refer to page 21 of our Learning for Impact report. You can also learn more about the Foundation via their website.

Photograph from the S.A. CFS leadership training session.

For more information on the AET Discretionary Grants program please contact our Philanthropic Services Team at philanthropy@aetlimited.com.au or call us on 1800 684 672.

In conclusion

What’s clear is that the bushfire problem is not going to be solved easily and it will take a combined global effort from governments, businesses and not-for-profit groups. Hopefully the community spirit and momentum surrounding this issue that we have seen in recent months will continue and enable us to enact greater positive changes.