District Governor, Grant Hocking, addresses the current status of assistance from our District to those effected by the ongoing bushfires throughout Australia - 
Hello all and Happy New Year
We have all seen the disastrous fires that have erupted, taking lives as well as destroying hundreds of homes and properties across Australia.
Over the past few days I have been receiving a number of contacts from concerned Rotarians asking what our District is planning to do about supporting those most affected by the fires.
I can provide all Rotarians across the District an update of the current plans.
Along with the closing of some communities in Gippsland alerts have gone out overnight from the Victorian Emergency Services (http://emergency.vic.gov.au/) website with warnings for people to leave parts of Hume region, with conditions expected to worsen again this weekend. If you have plans to visit these areas over the weekend you should cancel them.
Unfortunately we know from experience that it is likely that this is the beginning of the Victorian fire season and typically the threat will be with us for many months to come.
When emergencies such as this occur there are established procedures that States and Local Government Areas follow. Emergency and Disaster response agencies in Victoria do a marvellous job in the immediate care and safety of the affected communities. Relief and Recovery centres are set up with support from Government, Red Cross, and many others. Support is provided in the form of food, accommodation, counselling services and funding for necessities.
We know from past experience that the best thing Rotary can do is be there for these communities in the recovery phase. The best thing that Rotary can do with regards to the affected area is to keep out of the way until it is safe for us to go in and act.  The Vic Emergency website contains some good information on road closures, relief centres, registering your safety and advice on how to donate to communities affected.
-Emergency management personnel are busy working with local councils in the affected areas to assess the needs of their communities.
-Donations of money to affected communities should achieve positive outcomes for the community, by working directly with local recovery committees and structures to inform and drive the distribution of funds
-Experience tells us that donation of money is much more effective and provides more flexibility than the donation of material items or pre-loved goods. At this stage, we do not need donations of furniture or any other hard goods and we are unable to store or sort them. Please hold onto your donations until those affected know what they need.
So what is District 9800 doing?
1.D9800 Disaster Committee –Bushfire working group
The D9800 Disaster Relief Committee has active for many years especially supporting the drought efforts across the country. Whilst this is still an important issue the fires will take precedence. Under the D9800 Bylaws the DGE is nominated the chair of the Disaster Relief Committee. This week I have had discussions with DGE Philip Archer and requested that we establish a specific Bushfire Working Group under the banner of the Disaster committee.
There are several Fire related fundraising appeals up and running including RAWCS, the RC Bairnsdale under the D9820 banner specifically for the Gippsland fires and another with Bendigo Bank.
A D9800 donation fund will be established in the next few days to collect money from D9800 Rotary clubs, Rotarians, business and members of the public. More details will be provided very soon.
Updates will be provided regularly and I know that Rotary will once again shine in its support of our communities in need across Victoria and Australia.
Please stay safe and I look forward to providing more details ASAP.