Supporting bushfire-affected communities

Friday 17 January 2020

Drew Lindsay and students raise money for bushfires.

In summary

  • Swinburne staff and students have implemented a range of initiatives and activities to support those affected by bushfires
  • Scholarships have been made available to fire-affected students and additional support services are available
  • On-campus accommodation has been offered to families and bedding has been donated to those in need

In recent weeks, the Swinburne community has come together to support those affected by bushfires across Australia.

Staff and students are implementing a range of initiatives and activities, including fundraising, new scholarships and additional support services.

Helping fire-affected communities

Apartments at Swinburne Student Residences in Hawthorn have been made available free-of-charge to families affected by the fires. Free parking and access to Wellbeing services are also provided, and Achievement Cleaning have offered to clean the rooms free of charge.

“We have a high number of students from rural areas and our community is tight-knit, and we wanted to do something for the families affected by fires,” says Associate Director of Student Housing and Finance, Rowan Tan.

The Swinburne Residences team has also donated and delivered clean bed linen to Coldstream Fire Station, which will be distributed to those in need.

Many students and staff have contributed to the Bushfire Disaster Appeal established by our partner Bendigo Bank, or been involved in other fundraising activities. 

Swinburne student and winner of a 2018 Vice-Chancellor’s Leader of the Year Award, Drew Lindsay, organised a fundraiser with his peers and raised more than $1,000 with the support of Bendigo Bank’s Community Enterprise Foundation. Morning teas to raise additional funds for bushfire relief efforts are been organised across Swinburne’s three Australian campuses.

Teachers from our Trades and Engineering Technologies department have donated their time to make water and feed stations for the Victorian Wildlife Rescue and Support services.

Groups of staff have also been working together to create ‘fauna balls’ for surviving wild animals who have lost their food sources. The balls are made using nutritious foodstuffs and placed in safe places where animals are likely to be searching for food. 

Support for students and staff

Swinburne has allocated an initial $45,000 in scholarship funds for students from affected areas experiencing hardship due to the fires. 

Swinburne has also set up a Natural Disaster Emergency Fund with 100 per cent of donations to go to students in need.

“We don’t want the university dreams of any Australians to be destroyed by natural disaster,” says Swinburne’s Director of Development, Belinda Collins. 

Counselling and psychological services are available to all students 24/7, while staff have access to support through the Employee Assistance Program. All staff and students have access to chaplaincy and multi-faith prayer rooms.

Leave provisions are available to staff who volunteer with emergency services and are required to be away from work.

Sharing insights

Many Swinburne academics and researchers have offered their expertise on bushfire-related issues to the media. 

These include Krystian Seibert from Swinburne’s Centre for Social Impact who wrote about the most effective ways to donate to bushfire relief efforts for The Conversation. Dr Graham Dwyer, also from Swinburne’s Centre for Social Impact, co-authored a separate Conversation piece on why firefighters don’t want to be seen as heroes.

Respiratory expert and Dean of the School of Health, Professor Bruce Thompson, was widely quoted on the health effects of bushfire smoke, including by the ABC and The Washington Post.

Associate Professor Troy McEwan and Professor James Ogloff from Swinburne’s Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science have shared their knowledge of arson, including with the ABC RMIT Fact Check Unit.