This year on the Far South Coast, it’s no ordinary Christmas. During Australia’s worst drought, communities have come together to defend against fierce pre-summer bushfires. Town trade has been dulled by closed highways. There’s smoke in the air, ash on the beaches and conversation about the human impact on our little patch of paradise.
Around here, you’ll still find Christmas cheer. But this year, it’s less about ‘stuff’ and more about ‘spirit’. Here are some tips for a conscious Christmas, full of goodwill for people and planet:
Change the Chrissie conversation
Making the transition to a clutter-free Christmas can seem challenging, particularly when it comes to the expectations of young ones. But our Christmas memories aren’t recollections of specific gifts, just of the love we felt.
Consider these ideas:
- Be brave and honest. Our kids are perceptive and empathetic. If they’re old enough, talk to them about the drought, the fires, environmental issues and consumerism. When our Miss 7 donated her tooth fairy money to local firefighters and asked Santa for rain, I realised it’s okay to be real. We’ve discussed the impact of mass-produced, throwaway stocking-fillers and the benefits of minimising material gifts. We’ve asked family members to contribute to one gift, instead of buying many. We sponsored a koala via a monthly donation to WWF, and she thinks it’s the best gift ever.
- Focus on experiences, upcycled items and gifts made with love. Encourage Santa to deliver experience vouchers and homemade treats. Challenge your kids to select recycled gifts for friends, or charities, from a special ‘shop’ in their bedroom. They’ll be excited to play shopkeeper and it’s a great way to declutter. Instead of giving new gifts, Santa could trade used items with friends.
Embrace the spirit of giving and gratitude
Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers are our Christmas heroes, and are being ably supported by many local individuals, groups and businesses. There are many ways to we can show our Christmas gratitude:
- Donate – give directly to your local brigade, funds will be made available for urgent fuel and supplies.
- Support local businesses/initiatives that are supporting first responders. Amanda Averay-Jones of South Coast Essentials, Moruya is assembling Emergency Relief Care Kits, an initiative of Wellness Advocates Natural Disaster Support (WANDS). With a band of volunteers, Amanda has managed the local delivery of 500 kits – containing toiletries, face cloths, wipes and essential oils for wellbeing – to first responders, volunteers and evacuees. She held a kit ‘packing day’ yesterday (December 15) at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club. Visit her Facebook page for information.
- WIRES Mid-South Coast urgently needs community support to manage the impact of the fires and drought on local wildlife – you can donate or give goods including medical supplies; bird/possum boxes; fabric to line pouches/boxes; and cotton baby blankets/cot sheets. Drop-off points are in Ulladulla, Batemans Bay and Narooma. For details, see South Coast Community Emergency Support Group or phone Helena Barlow on 0403 890 059. Mid-South Coast Branch Chairperson Sandy Collins says new volunteers are needed and welcome, training is provided.
- Multiple local charities offer Christmas support for those in need. How about skipping the office/family Kris Kringle and diverting the funds to local charities? South-East Women and Children’s Services (SEWACS) accepts donations of non-perishable food items. For information, phone 4474 4287. Give the gift of time and conversation by helping out at Batemans Bay Community Kitchen or Narooma Street Kitchen Christmas lunches.
Share the love, locally
If giving gifts, how about investing in local wares and experiences?
President of the Batemans Bay Business & Tourism Chamber Alison Miers says the fires and road closures posed considerable challenges for local businesses, with cancellations and fewer people about.
In partnership with Eurobodalla Shire Council and the John Holland Group, the Chamber recently launched ‘Love the Bay’, a local pride campaign.
“We need to be putting a positive vibe out there – that we’re still here and open for business,” Alison says. She’s encouraging community members to shop locally and buy gift vouchers to explore local experiences.
“Have a staycation this Christmas and really enjoy your own town.”
Mogo’s Greta Sharman, an artist known for the well-loved Bliss honey products, has recently opened Bliss & Trove, a Broulee store stocked solely with the work of Eurobodalla artists.
Greta says conscious shoppers are increasingly showing love for themselves – and for others – with their purchasing decisions.
“Especially in the past couple of years, people are starting to care about what’s in things and where things come from,” she says.
“In regional areas, people want to support other locals.”
Words by Kat McCarthy