Since September 2019, bushfires have raged all across Australia, burning more than 27 million acres of land with over 100 still active blazes. Experts predict that over 1 billion animals have been killed by the bushfires, with long term recovery impeded by an extended drought season. The devastation has motivated many businesses and individuals in Texas to take up action, offering donations to help those affected as well as Australian wildlife. Historically Texas experiences long drought seasons and currently, nearly one-third of Texas is in drought. For many, the Australian bushfires are a difficult reminder of the risks of hot, dry climates.
In Katy, Texas, mother of two Amy Casto is making ‘Joey Pouches’, designed to be swaddling blankets for orphaned and displaced animals. Local businesses such as Hibiscus Linens in Houston, are offering to ship the ‘Joey Pouches’ to Australia, where they will assist animal rescue centers in providing for animals. Eight-year-old Nahla Sellers from Round Rock, has set up a stall outside her home, selling home-made bracelets. She has so far raised $450 for RSPCA New South Wales, with donations from all across the United States.
Individual efforts spread throughout Texas, with Austin-based artists ‘Name Pinding’ creating a koala pin, where sales made will go towards disaster relief efforts in Australia. The profits from the pin sales will be split between WIRES Wildlife Rescue in New South Wales and the Australian Red Cross which will assist impacted communities in their recovery. In Austin, a café in Bee Cave is hosting a silent auction on January 25 to raise money for bushfire relief efforts. The café is planning a day with Australian pastries such as meat pies, to support the auction of items donated by local, national, and international businesses.
Houston Zoo and Austin Zoo are also offering their assistance with relief efforts. Houston Zoo has donated $5,000 to the Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund which will assist wildlife in critical care and in the “long-term recovery of Australian wildlife”. Austin Zoo, which is home to some native Australian animals including emus and cockatoos, has offered its facilities to the rehabilitation of injured animals if needed. The director of Austin Zoo’s animal care is also planning a local relief effort to raise funds to directly assist.
In 2018 Australian firefighters assisted the United States in Californian wildfires and the reciprocated generosity by local businesses and individuals is testament to strong cultural links between Australia and the United States. Texas has a relationship with Australia that is increasingly strengthening, with nearly 20 000 Texan jobs supported by exports and six sister cities that connect them. Generosity throughout Texas proves that no action is too small and that every contribution goes a long way in their budding relationship with Australia.
Angelina Gu is a participant of the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a second year undergraduate student at the University of Sydney studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in History and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Politics and International Relations).