Australians have been coming up with their own unique ways to raise money and support the recovery and rebuilding efforts that lie ahead, after the devastating wildfires that swept through the East Coast are put to rest this summer.

Cars drive down an Australian coastal road.
Australians are campaigning for road trips to help the fire-hit country ©Travelerpix / Shutterstock

Hospitality businesses around Australia immediately started offering to donate a percentage of their profits to the myriad bushfire appeals across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The callouts were so frequent they needed to be collated in one spot, thus Restaurants for Relief began.

Food and travel journalist, inspiration for the #EatCuriously hashtag and co-organiser of Restaurants for Relief, Sofia Levin told Lonely Planet: “The one good thing that comes from disaster here is seeing the Aussie spirit shine. From planning road trips to support farmers to offering spare beds and free trades services, to people donating money – this is why we feel so proud to be Australian.”

An empty cooler sits on a beautiful beach
Australia are pledging to bring empty "eskies" to support fire-hit communities © Julie Fletcher / Getty Images

On a mission to support local businesses affected by the bushfires, a truly Australian campaign has sprung up to encourage everyone to grab an Empty Esky (a portable cooler box) and head on a road trip to communities impacted by fire. 

The movement was founded by three friends from Melbourne Erin Boutros, Eleanor Baillieu and Elise Mason, who wanted to do more to support those in fire-affected communities across the country. Co-founder, Eleanor, says the idea is to stimulate the local economy by supporting regional growers, producers and retailers. “We’re encouraging everyone, when it’s safe to do so, to grab an empty esky, do a road trip to an impacted area, and fill up that esky with everything local – wine, food and produce,” said Eleanor.

Sydneysiders collect donations to help communities stricken by the recent bushfires
Volunteers help unload donated goods from the public at the Food Bank Distribution Centre bound for areas impacted by bushfires on 7 January 2020 in the Glendenning suburb of Sydney, Australia. © Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

The Empty Esky Instagram page (which gained more than 10,000 followers in just over 24 hours) showcases small businesses and their products to help them reach customers, increase foot traffic and drive online sales. Travellers to Australia in 2020 can head share a pledge to visit a fire-affected town with an Empty Esky and on their own social media channels.

Other Aussie creatives harnessed Twitter with the hashtag #AuthorsForFireys to auction signed books, illustrations, unique experiences, one-off opportunities and services with over 500 writers, illustrators and editors heeding the call. Australian writer Liane Moriarty of Big Little Lies fame offered to name characters in her next book after winning bidders. Nick Cave donated a suit and a signed copy of song The Sick Bag Song, as well as half a million dollars. The list goes on.

And of course, there has been a multitude of fundraising gigs in Oz, including sell-out shows at Byron Bay’s Beach Hotel with locals, including Australian Tourism Ambassador and movie star Chris Hemsworth, donating opportunities for auction for those who missed tickets. If you want a tennis lesson with Pat Rafter, or a songwriting session with ARIA Award winner Bernard Fanning, head over to Make it Rain pronto.

Actor and Australian Tourism Ambassador Chris Hemsworth.jpg
Australian Tourism Ambassador, Chris Hemsworth. © Don Arnold/WireImage/Getty Images

An eclectic bunch of Australian musical acts including Icehouse, Hilltop Hoods, Jessica Mauboy and Olivia Newton-John, as well as international stars Queen, Alice Cooper and KD Lang (to name a few), are also holding a massive benefit concert on 16 February at Sydney’s Olympic Park. The gig is being hosted by Aussie comedian and actress Celeste Barber, whose social media fundraising effort helped raise more than $50 million already.

Australian Tourism continues to post updates on what areas have been affected and how this affects travellers. As best summed up by Levin: “It’s important to find meaningful ways to do your bit within your means. That can be as simple as choosing to eat out at a restaurant with a bushfire fundraising initiative or, better yet, planning vacations to bushfire affected communities. It’s our responsibility to ensure these economies and regions not only survive but rebuild. What better way to achieve that than through tourism?”

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