In the last couple of months, I have never felt prouder to be Australian. Witnessing the harrowing stories of the monumental human and wildlife loss endured by this beautiful country was incredibly heartbreaking.

However, seeing the response and outpour of assistance in all shapes coming in from fellow Aussies and people around the world, truly restored my faith in humanity, which was marred by so many negative global stories in 2019.

Despite this, coming back to work mid-January to kick start the year with my team, there was a feeling like no other of complete helplessness.  Certainly not the way we all wanted to start the year, let alone the decade.

And what really started to sink in quickly was this feeling that the sheer scale of the loss was in some ways unknown, and that our recovery from a human, nature, and economic standpoint was going to impact us all for years to come. 

I suffered a huge personal loss in October last year. My dad, who was my hero, my first boss and a kind and beautiful soul, passed away after a 13-year battle with Prostate Cancer.  It hit me and my family to the core, despite having “time to prepare for it”.  And the support that I received from family and friends in the first month following his passing was beyond my wildest dreams.  I felt very blessed. But as I had suspected (and ultimately the way I dealt with it when friends or family went through similar tragedies), everyone ‘moved on’ about a month later, when my new reality really started to kick in.  I don’t blame anyone at all, but it was interesting to watch how we all handle things that don’t directly impact our lives. 

I liken our collective response to this national tragedy to the cycle I went through personally and am still going through today. As the rains have come in, and things have seemingly calmed a little with news headlines about the fires and floods dissipating, a vast majority of us have started to ‘move on’.

However, in reality, the work is only just beginning. We need to figure out how to handle the charity donations and Government assistance. And our wildlife and people in impacted areas are in complete tatters, needing our help more than ever. We also need to look after our economy so that we can all survive this massive blow.

The indirect impact has already started to bubble to the surface. My husband and I bought a little place in Bright, Victoria a couple of years ago after a Christmas visit when we fell in love with the little Alpine town. Hoping to spend time there in our “golden years”, we took out a mortgage and thought we would rent the house out to help with the repayments.  Just last week, following a nerve wrecking period where the town was deserted as fires neared, our lovely stable tenants gave 30 days’ notice. Bright’s summer tourism season, when it makes much of its income, had been completely obliterated, which has left many people out of jobs and feeling very uncertain about what’s to come.

And on the work front, a number of our short-term PR project clients, understandably had their own programs severely disrupted, which of course made a boutique PR agency owner like me feel very nervous. What I love however, is that in response to this, my team came to me and suggested we provide complimentary extensions to ensure they continue to thrive and reach their goals. Ultimately, although none of this is anyone’s fault, we owe it to ourselves and each other to go above and beyond wherever possible to assist in helping people, businesses, and the economy in general, that have all taken a hit.

This made me think about how monetary donations are incredible, but sensitivity, human generosity and thoughtful actions going forward will be what will unify us all and help to rebuild morale and support the economy through these incredibly trying times.

The PR and Marketing Industry as an example, recently launched the Bushfire PR Alliance, where agencies will be paired with rural towns to revitalise tourism on a pro-bono basis, which is incredible.  However, I feel that it is upon every industry to find a way to shine the light on these towns and businesses, focus less on our own bottom line and achieve long-term sustainability for Australia.

We can use our staff and resources to take on more pro bono work to support those that have been directly or indirectly impacted and use any and every skill set we have to help rebuild communities.

It’s upon all companies and senior management to ask, “How can we really help?”, but please – don’t see this as a revenue generating opportunity, because that’s just crass.  

Do what you can because you’re human and try to see beyond the donations. Because, really, anything else would just be ‘unAustralian’.

By Agent Sharon