Australia’s unprecedented bushfires have cemented its rural firefighters at the heart of the nation’s identity.
It’s not just that these men and women put themselves in the line of fire. It’s that these “firies” are almost all volunteers, battling blazes for sheer love of their local community.
Relying on volunteers isn’t unique to Australia’s rural firefighting brigades. Other countries with large numbers of volunteer firefighters include Austria, Germany, France, the United States, Japan and China.
But Australia arguably relies on these volunteers to an extent unparalleled in the world, due to the country’s sheer size and the extent to which it is prone to bushfire. In terms of sheer scale of fires, only the vastness of Russia and Canada can compete, and neither has a climate and ecology quite so primed to burn.
Almost 1% of the population volunteers
About 195,000 Australians volunteer with the nation’s six state and two territory bushfire services. The most populous state, New South Wales, has the largest number (71,234). The Australian Capital Territory has the fewest (a little more than 400).
- ^ prone to bushfire (www.ga.gov.au)
- ^ Some say we've seen bushfires worse than this before. But they're ignoring a few key facts (theconversation.com)
- ^ CC BY-ND (creativecommons.org)
- ^ nearly a thousand years (www.aeiou.at)
- ^ the 71% of the Australia population (www.abs.gov.au)
- ^ the time volunteers have given up this season (www.abc.net.au)
- ^ Australia can expect far more fire catastrophes. A proper disaster plan is worth paying for (theconversation.com)
- ^ CC BY (creativecommons.org)
- ^ Country Fire Authority Act (1958) (classic.austlii.edu.au)
- ^ property levy (www.sro.vic.gov.au)
- ^ Rural Fires Act 1997 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au)
- ^ Emergency Services Levy Act 2017 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au)
- ^ NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund (www.rfs.nsw.gov.au)
- ^ Celeste Barber’s bushfire appeal (www.abc.net.au)
- ^ How to donate to Australian bushfire relief: give money, watch for scams and think long term (theconversation.com)
- ^ have to buy their own equipment (www.abc.net.au)
- ^ donors might like (www.canberratimes.com.au)
- ^ record numbers of applications (www.sbs.com.au)
Authors: Michelle Cull, Senior Lecturer in Accounting and Financial Planning, Western Sydney University