DUBAI: It will be a somber celebration of Australia Day today (Sunday) as expats across the country are directing their energies into finding ways to help those affected by the devastating bushfires back home.
Some festive events have been cancelled or postponed, including Australian Business Council Dubai’s annual Australia Day Ball. In lieu of them are fund-raising activities and collaborations with various establishments.
“As Australians, we grow up with bushfires, they are part of our environment. However, these fires have been unprecedented in their ferocity, creating their own weather systems and devastating vast tracts of bushland from South Australia through Victoria and New South Wales. In fact, every state and territory has been affected by fires this season,” Lisa Meli, manager of the Australian Business Council Dubai, told Gulf News.
“That’s why we have made the decision to postpone the Australia Day Ball as it just didn’t seem right to throw a party when so many have lost so much,” Meli said.
She noted: “While much of the immediate crisis has passed, the road to recovery will be a long one so it isn’t surprising that the mood around Australia Day is decidedly different this year.”
Thankfully, there is an overwhelming feeling of wanting to do something to help.
“We have been inundated with people wanting to know how they can assist those that have been affected. The support of the UAE has been humbling, not just direct assistance but for launching platforms that allow people in the UAE to give directly. A number of organisations have been fundraising since the platforms became available from schools and universities to businesses,” Meli shared.
Events in support
One event happening today is at Zero Gravity, where 100 per cent of all money that will be raised will go directly to the Emirates Red Crescent and Australian Red Cross #mateshelpmates appeal.
Yes, there will still be BBQ and partying by the pool or beach, albeit in a subdued way.
There will be raffle prizes to raise as much funds as possible, according to the organisers who added that another way to support Australia is to plan their next holiday Down Under, after everything is under control.
The UAE is home to between 16,000-17,000 Australian expats but it not only the Aussies who are raising funds to combat the natural disaster.
Just recently, the Emirates Nature-WWF has set up a fundraising channel, via YallaGive, a local crowdfunding platform, where everyone can support the nature and wildlife of Australia. Funds raised through this campaign will support an emergency appeal from WWF Australia and deliver immediate wildlife response and recovery.
Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, has also displayed a message of support for the Australian people. It was lit up with messages of solidarity – and will again flash the Australian colours tonight at 6.45pm, in support of the ongoing efforts to contain the bushfires and display the hashtag #MatesHelpMates.
Ian Halliday, Australian Consul-General in Dubai, told Gulf News that he is thankful of the “incredible support of individuals and organisations who have come together to raise funds to help the people impacted by the devastating bushfires.”
Justin McGowan, Australian commissioner general for Expo 2020 Dubai, added that there will also be tree-planting at the Expo site today as a show of gratitude by Australians to the UAE for its support in fighting the bushfires
Dubai resident and Australian expat Loretta Grey said, “We were blessed with a large donation from the UAE which brought tears to my eyes. It’s sad to know that people are suffering in your homeland but I know as a community they will band together and help each other where they can.”
Donna Roper, a lifestyle influencer, said: “Australia Day has always been a celebration of our ways and culture and for expats a chance to connect back with our family and land - far from home but never forgotten.
“We will celebrate Australia Day this year by raising further awareness of the people and animals at home that have been so tragically affected by these terrifying bushfires. I’m inspired by the firefighters and the resilience of my countrymen and we will stand as one and support them.”
Celebrated annually on January 26, Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. It marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.