Bishop George Browning of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia, today spoke about the devastation that was caused by the weekend's bush fires in Canberra:
"It is certainly a catastrophe of staggering proportions. The count of homes lost now stands at approximately 450.
"Our church people are working very hard and are a little exhausted. The spirit of people is strong. They have been making sure that the elderly and those who live on their own are looked after and that assistance is provided where necessary.
"A significant number of church families have shared in the loss of home and possessions.
"I have spent most of my time visiting the evacuation centres and visiting people who have lost their homes.
"The inner resources for restoration and rebuilding is essentially a local street by street task. You gain the feeling that each street has become something like a battalion at war. They are welded together in an extraordinary manner. I am sure there will be many stories of community self help.
"I am utterly amazed that only four lives were lost. It is almost incomprehensible when you see the devastation and understand the speed at which it occurred.
"Some of our clergy were evacuated at the time, but no church property has been lost.
"I have been talking with other Canberra church leaders about the possibility of an ecumenical service which could be held in the open air in or near the devastated areas of Canberra. However, this may not take place for some time. In the meantime small local gatherings are being arranged."
Services immediately available:
- Emergency relief (food, clothing, other practical support) - St John's Care, 6248-7771
- Counselling - St John's Care counselling referral service 6248-7771 (9-2 weekdays)
- Mental health counselling - Calwell Community Centre, 6291-4300 (9-5, weekdays)
- Critical incident stress management - Karen Ott, Calwell Community Centre, 6291-4300
- Counselling and personal support for young people: Youth in the City, 6247-0770
- Junction Youth Health Service, 6247-5567
- Anything else - contact the Anglicare office, 6230-5113
Services available in the longer term:
Anglicare, Canberra & Goulburn has registered with the Act Emergency Services Bureau indicating its availability for longer-term support during the recovery phase. A volunteer register has been set up and interested persons are asked to refer all offers of help to the Anglicare Offices (6230-5113).
Individuals may also make a donation to the Anglicare Emergency Appeal. Cheques may be sent to Anglicare Bushfire Appeal, GPO Box 1981, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia. The Bishop has asked for the prayers and support from the Anglican Communion, pledges of which have already been quite considerable.