During a time of devastation for our nation, our Pacific neighbours are going above and beyond to reach out and respond.
It’s been a harrowing time for Aussies.
Our nation has been ravaged by fire and continues to be in crisis, even as we start to survey the horrific damage of the past few months.
But one of the many beautiful things to come from this horror has been the response from Pacific nations.
Many have offered support and practical assistance in any way they can; proving that our bond with the Pacific is a true partnership in a deep and special way.
Here are some of the ways our Pacific family has responded:
Vanuatu have pledged 20 million vatus (almost $250,000) “to assist bushfire victims in Australia”.
In a Facebook post on 5 January, Vanuatu’s acting Prime Minister said:
“As a Pacific neighbour and friend, we have watched as Australia has been devastated by these horrific bushfires. We offer whatever assistance we can in this time of need, as Australia has always done in ours.”
Australia gave $50 million in aid to Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam lashed the Pacific island nation in 2015, killing 11 and affecting 195,000 people.
Papua New Guinea has offered 1000 personnel, including soldiers and firefighters.
Prime Minister James Marape offered this personnel to the government saying they ‘stand ready to be deployed.’
His post on social media said: “Papua New Guinea conveys our sympathies, sorrow and grief in your moment of pain.
“Australia is the closest friend of PNG and is always the first in PNG in our times of adversities and we offer our hearts and our hands to you in this time of fire-induced tragedies.”
A Fire Appeal secretariat has also been set up to assist Australia, with this effort being overseen by the PNG Prime Minister himself.
Fiji has offered their support and defence personnel.
Fijian defence personnel will also be coming to assist after this was offered by Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Inia Seruiratu.
Seruiratu stressed that Fiji stands in solidarity with the people of Australia and is proud to offer military assistance, pointing to the fact that Australia and Fiji have a long history of cooperation and support in times of natural disasters.
Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama also offered words of support on social media.
“Whenever Fiji is devastated by national disaster, Australia has shown that they are ‘vuvale’ — our family — by quickly stepping up with aid and on-the-ground assistance.
“We see the strength of your national character in the courage of your firefighters on the frontlines of the bushfires.
Despite the immense pain that you are going through, we have great faith that your country will heal with haste. Australians are in the prayers of every Fijian.”
Pacific Conference of Churches have started an appeal and will hold a prayer vigil on 26 January:
The Pacific Conference of Churches has also been active in its support for Australia.
Churches in the Pacific will gather on 26 January to contribute funds towards the bush fire effort.
Trained trauma counsellors have been place on stand-by to minister to victims and firefighters if they are needed.
Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend James Bhagwan, said a vigil service to pray for Australia, its people and wildlife, would be held at the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral, Suva at 3pm on January 26.
“We have also written to all our member churches to ask for financial and professional support for the bush fire effort.”
Individuals and businesses have also stepped up to the plate:
Weta Coffee shop in Fiji donated all of its sales on Monday 6 January – F$3,000 (A$2,000) – to bushfire relief.
A group of Red Cross volunteers in Vanuatu walked down the street collecting donations, carrying a sign reading: “Give hope to Australian bush fire survivors”.
Another man – Giro Imbu, 35, organised a similar donation drive in Lae, Papua New Guinea’s second-largest city, after seeing images of the bushfires on television.
Imbu led a group of young people who walked through the city’s settlements last week collecting donations. On their first day they raised 1,000 kina.
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Scott Morrison.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in acknowledging the response from governments all over the world, said he had been overwhelmed by “the loving response from our Pacific family”.
“They have all been reaching out to Australia. They know how Australia has been faithful to them in all of their hours of need, and they just, in their own way, are trying to extend that in the best way they possibly can. We’re very grateful for it,” he said.