The Australian Bushfires — how the sewing community is helping

This is a hard post to write. It’s difficult to talk about what is happening here in Australia without feeling that the words are trivial in comparison with what is happening in our communities and to Country.

Note: Country is used here in this sense — it means more than Australia as a geopolitical entity. In Australia we acknowledge when we live and work on other people’s Country and traditional owners of the land may welcome people to Country. An Acknowledgement of Country follows: I acknowledge that I write this post on the land of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

We thought it might be helpful to give an overview of how sewists can help if they want to, and to express gratitude for the fantastic response that has already occurred around the world.

Before we cover the responses: if you want to know more about what’s happening in Australia, there are many news sites that can assist. My favourite is the Guardian, who have been thoughtful and impassioned in their coverage, but who have also taken a significant stand on some of the misinformation that has been circulating about the situation and its causes. Some things have been shared unknowingly by well-meaning people who care, other things are part of a political and ideological battle about climate change which has been long resolved in other countries. This statement from the Australian Academy of Science covers this problem better than I ever could.

So — how can YOU help?

You can sew something! There are plenty of sewing opportunities out there to assist, mostly to sew protective pouches and wraps for animals.

The above are just two examples of sewists doing their bit to help the injured and displaced animals from the fires during which an estimated one billion animals have died. So much of Australian life is about the flora and fauna here (much of which is notoriously poisonous!), so this work is critical for helping people here hope, as well as helping the animals themselves.

Advice on this one (as with any donation of physical goods) is always to check what’s needed before you send it — in this case for example, I recently saw a note that no more koala mittens were needed! You can check the Animal Rescue Craft Guild on Facebook for this type of information and patterns.

You can buy stuff! I have seen countless companies who are responding by donating — some are donating a portion of sales (or all their profit in some instances) for a specified time, or for a particular item they sell. Of particular interest to us on this site, is that there are a number of pattern companies doing this! I don’t have a comprehensive list, but check your favourites or keep an eye out for this win-win way to give. As always, check where the money is going and make sure you are comfortable.

You can give money! This one is the easiest and often the most likely to be assured of helping those in need. There are a bunch of ways to give — to charities for animals, to assist our volunteer rural firefighters (yes, they are volunteers). The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has some good advice here on how to choose with links to reputable and common options. Make sure you are comfortable with the stated aims and approach of wherever you choose.

Of course, you can combine sewing with giving money. If you sew items and sell them locally, you can donate the proceeds to the organization of your choice. In times of emergency, animal rescue groups can actually get overwhelmed by donations of physical items (like the koala mittens, in this case) — plus, sending items between continents has a cost, financially, environmentally, and in terms of time spent in transit as well. If you sell your makes locally and just send the money, the organizations can choose how to use it best and they’ll have access to it quickly.

You can change what you do! The predicted effects of climate change include a longer bushfire season, with more fires and fires of greater intensity and impact. We can all make a difference, through protest, voting and individual change, to make sure this doesn’t get worse every year from now. I know this one of the hard parts — to feel like we can make a difference — but every change matters. It doesn’t have to be a radical rework of your life, but finding a step that you can take and making sure you take it.

The textile industry is one of the biggest polluters and contributors to climate change out there, so it’s no wonder sustainability is a hot topic in sewing and fashion. We recently posted a round up of sustainability resources that is a great place to start. If you are looking to go deeper into the topic, our former editor Kate @TimeToSew ( delves into the big questions of sewing sustainably on her blog and Instagram feed. Her posts are well-researched and thoughtful on a topic that is by no means straightforward.

We close with an excerpt from the statement by the Australian Academy of Science.

The Academy is resolute that the response to the bushfires must extend beyond the immediate and essential need to rebuild and recover.

Everything, including urban planning; building standards; habitat restoration; biodiversity and species preservation; and land, water and wildlife management will need careful and measured consideration.

We must further improve our ability to forecast changing environmental threats and continually improve climate modelling predictions. We must improve our understanding of fire behaviour and other adverse weather events, and we must continually develop new technologies, practices and behaviours to assist our nation to respond and adapt to, manage, and mitigate against such extreme events.

All the while, Australia must take stronger action as its part of the worldwide commitment to limit global warming to 1.5° C above the long-term average to reduce the worst impacts of climate change.

To have the best chance of succeeding, we must draw on all the available evidence and knowledge, including working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and undertaking further research where it will have the most benefit.

A note from the author: I have lived in Australia since 2001 and have been a citizen since 2007, but I live in a city and have done all my life. I am lucky and grateful that my family and friends are safe. I am lucky and grateful that I have power and access to clean drinking water and whatever I want from the shops. I have the luxury of writing this post instead of working out where to live or how to rebuild my life. Life in Australia is changed forever — thank you for the support and care you are sending our way.