10 August 2020

Papua New Guinea youth and Rotary Club donate $61,000 to bushfire recovery

| Sharon Kelley
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Youth of Lae City members walking the streets fundraising to help fight bushfire recovery in Australia.

Youth of Lae City members walking the streets raising funds to help bushfire recovery in Australia. Photo: Helen Taylor.

The city community of Lae in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea, has donated $61,000 to the bushfire affected NSW South Coast. In a country where the average wage is equivalent to one Australian dollar per day, Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor Sharon Tapscott acknowledged the generosity of the donation.

“We sincerely thank the Lae city community for their thoughtfulness and kindness,” said Mayor Tapscott. “We will put these funds to good use.

“There is an amazing story behind this donation, for which we are incredibly grateful, particularly when you understand how little these people have themselves.”

An organisation called Youth of Lae City pushed wheelbarrows around the streets, collecting bushfire relief donations for Australia because, as one young woman told the ABC, the people of Lae city realise they have benefited from Australian-built health centres and hospitals, and they felt it was their opportunity to reciprocate “from the heart”.

With the support of Lae Rotary Club, the Youth of Lae City raised $61,000.

The president of the Lae Rotary Club was put in touch with the chairperson of the Bushfire Appeal Committee and president of the Morobe Chapter of the PNG Australia Alumni Association, Sheila Harou.

Former president of the Rotary Club of Merimbula, Andy Thorp, explained to Ms Harou how much of the Bega Valley had been destroyed by the summer bushfires and he described the recovery work being carried out by the Rotary Club of Merimbula to help rebuild the region’s devastated communities.

The Rotary Club of Merimbula consulted Mayor Tapscott and co-chair of the Bega Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund, Mick Brosnan.

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“We all felt $50,000 would best support the Valley’s bushfire relief if it was reallocated to the fund,” said Mr Brosnan.

“So with Ms Harou’s blessing, the funds were transferred and will be used to support our bushfire impacted communities.”

The Rotary Club of Merimbula used the balance of the donation to buy two trailers, which will initially be used by the BlazeAid camps in Bemboka and Towamba. When the camps close, the trailers will be repurposed for firefighting and provided to the Rural Fire Service.

The Bega Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund is a perpetual fund, jointly managed by Bega Valley Shire Council and the Social Justice Advocates, and focuses on unmet needs, aiming not to duplicate the work of other agencies and charities.

The fund also helps with everyday health and wellbeing issues to meet critical and acute needs such as fuel, firewood, household appliances and clothing.

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