Mentor Bushfire Relief Efforts

We’re devastated to have started the year on such a tragic note with catastrophic bushfires raging across the country. The only silver lining in a crisis like this the way that communities – like ours – band together to support those who’ve been directly affected.

So, for the first newsletter of the year we wanted to highlight the efforts of some of our mentors who are involved in incredible activities focussed on immediate support, as well as campaigns for the longer term, to help people rebuild their communities and livelihoods.

Mentors doing their part

Donations have been pouring in from organisations all across the world. Brisbane mentor, Desley Grundy – a partner at Ernst & Young – says her organisation has donated $100K to the Red Cross, and have set up a Good to Give fund for partners and staff to directly donate. And Dannielle Michaels – a Melbourne mentor and founding director of for kids – donated 100% of her sales and profits over a 48 hour period to fire relief.

Canberra mentor Nadine White, the Director of HR at ANU, says the university offered staff who volunteered with RFS, SES, ADF Reserves or any volunteer recovery agency (e.g. Red Cross) with access to an extra 20 paid days of ex-gratia leave.

We are providing government and media with access to expert information and coordinating with local health services as to how our staff (for example doctors, psychologists etc) can support local programs,” says White.

Mentor Karina Keisler, Cricket Australia’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, told Mentor Walks of her organisation’s efforts.

“Australian Cricket employees have each been given up to three ‘free’ volunteering days adding up to more than 4000 days to help recovery efforts in every state,” she said.  “A major fundraiser is being planned and a future game will be dedicated to recognising the volunteers, emergency services and people who have been directly impacted by the fires.”

She also mentions a moving tribute where a Royal Fire Service NSW employee was greeted on the field by Captain Tim Paine, followed by a game where the teams all wore black armbands to commemorate those lost in the fires. Players (National and State) also auctioned signed shirts to raise funds.

Image: Tim Paine and RFS NSW employee.

Canberra mentor Jo Scard, the founder and CEO of Fifty Acres – a communications agency – is offering emergency communications services for organisations like the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and IDEAS (a disability information service) to help communication efforts for people with a disability to are affected by the fires. They’re also providing pro-bono communications and engagement support to a grassroots organisation in Canberra that was created to support evacuees.

Dr Nora Scheinkestel, Melbourne mentor and Telstra board member, highlighted Telstra’s decision to waive any mobile fees for registered volunteer firefighters over the December-January period, and Sydney mentor, CEO of Fund to Fly, Natalie Goldman, says her efforts have been focussed on helping her local Surf Live Saving Club in Bondi to sort, pack and store all the public donations, as well as involving herself in a grassroots Sydney-based Bushfire support team.

“The community has really come together as our country has been devastated… it’s shown us how beautiful humans really can be,” says Goldman.

If you’re looking for smaller ways to do your part, Wollongong mentor Stephannie Jonovska, Manager of Finance Transformation at BlueScope Steel, has been supporting an initiative started by Turia Pitt and Gracie McBride, the @spendwiththem Instagram account which encouraged people to purchase goods and services online from businesses in fire affected zones. Jonovska’s colleague Deanne Howard, Manager Organisation Capability at BlueScope, also highlighted that their company had donated an impressive $1 million to the Red Cross bushfire relief appeal.

Sharon Knightly, Wollongong mentor and superannuation analyst at Mercer, is supporting the Rotary Australia World Community Service and Miriam D’Souza, Perth mentor and Partner at Norton Rose Fullbright, is focusing her efforts on the smaller creatures affected by crocheting nests for injured birds and wildlife (you can find patterns here).

Kirstin Hunter, the Managing Director of Future Super and Sydney mentor highlighted the progressive steps her organisation is taking, including:

  • Unlimited paid climate emergency leave for employees whose homes and families have been directly affected by any climate disaster
  • Unlimited paid volunteer leave for staff involved in volunteering efforts
  • Doubling employee donations to bushfire relief programs
  • Paying for temporary relocation of employees and their families living in areas directly impacted by the fires
  • Providing flexible working locations and hours for all staff affected by fires and hazardous smoke
  • Donating $20,000 to bushfire relief programs


These are just a few of the personal and organisational efforts that will help those affected deal immediately and as they rebuild their communities.

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