The 2019–20 Eastern Victorian bushfires were significant. The bushfires were unlike any previous fire events because they burned over many months and occurred alongside bushfires across the eastern seaboard and other parts of Australia.
The bushfires resulted in far-reaching devastation for local people, communities, ecosystems, businesses and infrastructure. There was significant damage to environment, loss of and damage to significant cultural heritage and large numbers of deaths of wildlife.
Over 1.5 million hectares were burnt in the fires – an area containing more than 1,000 registered Aboriginal heritage places. Two hundred and forty-eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were impacted by the fires and 42 had homes destroyed or made unliveable.
Samaritan’s Purse responded by deploying our Australian Disaster Relief Unit and a volunteer team to Bairnsdale in Eastern Gippsland to meet the needs of bushfire-affected communities along the coast of Victoria. Partnering with local churches in the area, volunteers were able to clean properties, cut trees, sift through ashes, and offer physical and emotional support hundreds of individuals affected by the fires.