BUSHFIRE UPDATE: Members visit South Eastern Relief Centre
Members of the Order of Malta has reacted to the bushfire crisis by connecting directly with the Parishes involved and offering immediate assistance
In a sign of solidarity and support, members of the South Eastern region joined the parishioners at East Gippsland at Bairnsdale’s St Marys Church to pray for those most in need during this bushfire crisis.
The Parish Priest Fr Michael Willemsen, who also cares for the Parishes of Orbost, Lakes Entrance and Bairnsdale, has been at the Bairnsdale Relief Centre over much of the last week, supported by his parish teams. The Parish’ territories include seriously impacted communities such as Mallacoota, Buchan, Cann River, Sarsfield, Nowa Nowa and Omeo.
The Parish itself has its own care centre, manned by the local Vinnies, away from the crowded and hectic relief centre that is the first point of call for those impacted by the fires.
National Hospitaller John Murphy toured the Parish centre as well as the South East Gippsland relief centre with Parish representatives to better understand the needs of those affected.
It is a big job to process those that have become displaced after evacuation, some having lost property, others still not knowing the fate of their loved ones, property and possessions. Some are upset but many are clearly in shock as they struggle to come to terms with what is happening. The Red Cross and Department of Health and Human Services are the first point of call to take care of registration and paperwork, case workers, chaplains, police and army reserves are present with the Salvation Army, Vinnies and other community based organisations all working together.
The Order of Malta food vouchers are playing a small but highly valued role for many of the victims. In one case a single mother with 3 children struggling to keep her family together is now able to take some control and certainty back into her life by been able to buy provisions that meet the needs of her young family. In another case it may be the ability to go and buy personal hygiene items, fresh socks, undergarments and other basic items now available for purchase.
The Order of Malta will continue to work with the impacted parishes to assist with the rehabilitation effort.