Safety and offering safe spaces has been the focus of the Y during this bushfire emergency response period - with Y sites in bushfire affected areas across Vic, NSW, ACT and SA. The wellbeing of staff and communities by evacuation and temporarily closing centres in danger has been our absolute priority. We have also been able to offer safe spaces and accommodation for people around our fire-affected communities, utilising a number of our sites as emergency centres.
“Our longer term priority is to ensure our response is congruent with what the communities require, to assist in rebuilding and supporting their wellbeing. The Y was involved in the rebuilding of communities after the 2009 bushfires, and we’re committed to doing the same after these bushfires,” said Melinda Crole, CEO, YMCA Australia.
A summary of the Y sites that were affected is as follows.
- Y Grampians/Ballarat are still in emergency response mode and assessing impact, particularly in Mallacoota, where they had previously closed two Y kindergartens, with 22 staff evacuated.
- The Red Cross are currently using the Y's facilities in Malacoota as an emergency centre.
- Y NSW closed a number of their sites around the Blue Mountains and Canberra due to air quality.
- Y Vic had evacuated their Howmans Gap site, and offered their Phillip Island campsite for emergency accommodation, and closed over 30 sites due to air quality.
- Y Canberra closed all of their Early Learning and Vacation programs due to air quality.
- Y Whittlesea closed their Whittlesea outdoor pool on 14 January due to air quality levels, and offered their TRAC (Thomastown Recreation & Aquatic Centre) and Whittlesea Swim Centre facilities as safe spaces for evacuated communities (Greensborough, Bundoora and Mill Park).
- Y Geelong offered their Camp Wyuna Queenscliff (Bellarine Peninsula) accommodation as emergency accommodation.
- Y SA evacuated a number of their OSHC sites, around Mount Gambier and Adelaide.
- A number of our Y centres (over 620) across Australia are currently organising fundraisers (to donate to major appeals), and are being utilised by partner organisations as drop off points (where required, eg. Foodbank). Vic & NSW have also offered their state’s firefighters (and their families) free access to their recreation centres and pools.
Credit: artwork by Aileen Ng, WhyNot editorial committee.