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Volunteers required: Bushfire Recovery: Plants for Peace

The monster fire season 2019-2020 saw many million hectares of bush and farmland burnt up and down Australia’s east coast, causing massive losses in wildlife and sweeping damage to natural landscapes made vulnerable through sudden loss of ground cover. Cities were enveloped in a pall of thick yellow smoke throughout January; Lasting health impacts are yet to be fully understood. Direct damage from fires devastated the life of numerous small communities – destruction of farm buildings, fences, and private and public property. At the human level the task of recovery has been slow – people have had to build from the ground up their livelihoods and their health; communities have been a hub for this recovery stepping up months ahead of promised government assistance. 

Through fortuitous circumstances IVP was able to quickly put together a project to bring surplus garden plants, regularly discarded from wholesale nurseries, to affected communities as a quiet gesture of solidarity. First delivery was in July to a coastal village that had been cut off for weeks by fire the previous January – images from the time show residents retreating into shallow water of the nearby lake; to a backdrop of burning bushland. 

The 70 plants we brought disappeared quickly and were gratefully received. We have been working since to reach other communities – supplying several hundred plants to a cluster of small communities further inland, partnering with the local council, and planning to extend our deliveries to coastal areas further south. 

Even though it is approaching a year since the fires, attention to re-establishing a garden from scorched earth and weeds, delayed while makeshift accommodation arranged, can be a link on the path to restored mental health, and revived communities. Our action rested on willing cooperation from one of the largest wholesale nurseries – who supply city garden centres. The rescued plants are tangible ingredients in psychic healing for people who have lost homes and possessions; and communities coming to terms with a succession of calamities: 4 years drought, then fire, then storms then pandemic. The bush fire experience has exposed the sober virtue of walking with people – not just the drama of survival that makes the news, but the months and years for confidence to return.

If you would like to help with this project, please get in touch with David at placements@ivp.org.au or Stephen at admin@ivp.org.au

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