By Devin Watkins
The Church launched Catholic Emergency Relief Australia (CERA) in February to serve as a coordination point for Catholic agencies responding to natural disasters.
On Tuesday, CERA announced that 15 Catholic organizations have received funding to support their efforts to help those affected by this year’s nationwide bushfires.
Large portions of Australia were scorched during the 2019-2020 bushfire season, which has come to be known as the Black Summer.
Fires ravaged over 18 million hectares between June 2019 and May 2020.
At least 34 people were killed in the blazes, with over 400 others killed indirectly through smoke inhalation. Nearly 6,000 buildings were destroyed, and an estimated 1 billion animals died as a result of the flames.
The bushfires burned nationwide, but the Northern Territory and New South Wales were the worst-affected areas.
In response, Catholic Emergency Relief Australia invited organizations to apply for grants.
Twenty-four groups applied for funding, seeking around AU$400,000.
Thanks to donations from Catholic communities across the country, 15 of those organizations will receive a total of AU$110,000.
Recipients include several parishes, an aboriginal mentoring program, projects aiming to support children, and counseling programs to help people cope with the pain of loss.
Spiritual and emotional recovery
Susan Pascoe, chairperson of CERA, said the funding focused on projects and programs to support people’s mental health and trauma management.
She said the government and NGOs met most people’s immediate, material needs in the wake of the bushfires.
“What will take much longer, though, is the spiritual, emotional and psychological recovery,” she said. “The funding we have awarded will focus especially on those aspects of people’s journey back to some sense of normalcy.”
Grant recipients, she added, hail from all parts of Australia.
“We once again thank those who have supported Catholic Emergency Relief Australia by donating to this long-term recovery plan,” said Ms. Pascoe, “and we are confident that the funding we provide will make a difference in the lives of people affected by the bushfires.”
Catholic Emergency Relief Australia
CERA’s founding members include the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Catholic Religious Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, and the National Catholic Education Commission.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society later joined in the initiative.