Bushfire Relief - An Experience Volunteering with South Coast Wildlife Rescue

5 months ago by Erica Genda

Kangaroo Clinic 7

​After the devastation of the Christmas and New Year’s fires in Australia, which affected so many of our colleagues, clients and candidates, there was a sense of momentary helplessness. Many of us wanted to help, but were not sure how we could, or what that would even look like.

The Chandler Macleod People & Culture Team were quick to take on this feedback from our teams and devised some ways that we as an organisation could step in and help. Firstly, Chandler Macleod Group made their own significant donation to the emergency bushfire funds, also pledging to match any staff donations dollar for dollar. Offices hosted fundraising morning teas in each state and donated much needed funds to different organisations.

The organisation also approved up to 2 additional days ‘bushfire leave’ for all staff to travel to areas which had been affected by the fires and spend their much needed tourism dollars. Finally, we were extended up to 5 days ‘volunteering leave’ to use going out into the community and volunteering wherever help was needed.

Rochelle Taylor from our Peoplebank business did just that, and we wanted to share her experience to inspire others who might be wanting to help but aren’t quite sure where to start. We sat down with Rochelle to ask a few questions:

Hi Rochelle, can you describe your volunteering experience in one sentence?

Eye-opening. It’s one thing seeing the devastation on the news, it’s quite another walking into the area and witnessing the destruction it has caused to communities.

Bushfire relief volunteering feeding kangaroo

Where did you decide to volunteer?

I volunteered with South Coast Wildlife Rescue both in the Shoalhaven Bat Clinic and the Kangaroo Rescue. Both were completely run by volunteers and funds raised for them go directly to caring for the animals.

Tell us about your experience

My first thought was that these volunteers are completely selfless. They open up their homes and land and build facilities for the animals, often putting their hands in their own pockets to keep things running when funds are low.

I firstly volunteered at the Bat Rescue Clinic with Janine, where there are currently 300 bats in residence, mostly babies who need to be hand raised. I was shocked to learn that when the fire came through, so many of the mothers were affected by the extreme heat because bats can’t regulate their temperature and started dropping their babies. The volunteers came by afterwards picking up and saving all the babies they could.

I helped in the “Bat Day-care” section where bats were learning how to be bats in the wild prior to release. It is quite a job to feed 300 bats, and volunteers are needed to chop up the vast amounts of fruit and vegetables required to keep them healthy. Another volunteer would go in and clean out the cages and hang the new food up. Other volunteers help to clean all the feeding trays/tarps and other materials ready for feeding in the afternoon.

One thing I didn’t realise is how important bats are to the ecosystem – particularly for pollinating Eucalyptus trees. We might not think they are the most charming of animals, but they are vital to the ongoing health of our bush and wildlife so we must make an effort to look after them.

bushfire relief feeding bats

Amazing, so next you went to the Kangaroos?

Yes, one afternoon I went down to the Kangaroo Rescue area and met the amazing Adrina Selles who has opened her home to recovering wildlife. In fact, the fire had burnt right up to her property, so it was incredibly lucky that the property had escaped the burn itself.

Adrina takes in orphans and injured kangaroos to rehabilitate and hand-raise. Joey’s are fed five times a day, so it is a full time, exhausting job for the carers. They eventually graduate to the Kangaroo ‘day-care’ area and then onto the paddock where human contact is gradually withdrawn to get them ready for life in the bush.

The roster of volunteering includes feeding, filling bottles, toileting and washing pouches. Vets visit to check and bandage any injuries and burns.

Do you have a message for anyone thinking about volunteering?

Yes – just do it! It is an amazing experience and it feels good to help. It can be difficult to find places where they are accepting volunteers so don’t be picky about what you do – just go where the help is needed. If you want to donate to the South Coast Wildlife Rescue you can do so via this link.