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Helping to fight the Australian bushfire crisis through charity, volunteering and supporting national disaster relief efforts through our operations

The 2019–20 Australian bushfire season – also known as the Australian bushfire crisis – was one of the worst and most tragic on record – burning and spreading with catastrophic scale and intensity. During the season, hundreds of thousands of square kilometres were burnt, thousands of buildings and homes were destroyed, and dozens of people and an estimated one billion animals were killed. Multiple states of emergency and evacuation were declared across several Australian territories. Reinforcements from all over Australia – and around the world – were called in to assist fighting the fires, including the Australian Defence Force, and an estimated A$500 million (plus other resources such as food and clothing) was donated to support relief and recovery.

The bushfire crisis was an exceptionally challenging time for many Australians and some Serco teams were directly impacted. For some this involved protecting the family home, evacuating family and friends and, sadly, the loss of property. For others, supporting the relief efforts was a natural extension of their roles:

  • Our Fleet Marine Services Contract team supported the mobilisation of the Royal Australian Navy’s disaster relief efforts. Some members of the team were on active duty whilst also protecting their own homes, evacuating in some instances and supporting their family and communities.
  • Our Australian Defence Force Health Services Contract (AHSC) team returned early from their holidays to support the reopening of military bases which were used for evacuation staging, accommodation and other disaster relief activity.
  • Our Department of Human Services team helped to meet the government request for more call centre support for the bushfire recovery.

Many employees provided support as volunteers – working in emergency support crews for Rural Fire Services or Emergency Services. Emergency Services Leave allowance was doubled to support them. Others became involved in their capacity as Reservists, in response to the first compulsory call up of Reservists in Australian history.

Many more of our colleagues, unable to help directly, contributed to fundraising efforts. All employees were offered the opportunity to salary sacrifice from their pay a donation to three national charities supporting the Bushfire Crisis – The Salvation Army, Red Cross and the RSPCA.

One Serco colleague in particular made an extraordinary contribution through her own relief initiative, Backpacks for Bushfires. After seeing the devastation of the bushfires, Karen Flinn, Talent Acquisition Specialist, wanted to do more. Her idea was to help families impacted by the bushfires by providing school essentials that would enable them to continue sending their children to school during the crisis. People were encouraged via social media to purchase a backpack, fill it with school essentials and drop it off for donation.

The scheme caught the public imagination and expanded in reach from local to regional to national at an incredible rate, with television news coverage and support from businesses and celebrities. Thousands of backpacks were donated filled with lunchboxes, drink bottles, pencil cases, pencils, rulers and books.

Serco Asia Pacific Chief Executive, Mark Irwin said: "Karen truly embodies Serco's core Values and is not only an asset here at Serco but to the community and Australia as a whole."

Excess donations have been given to Backpacks 4 SA Kids, an organisation that supports families and children affected by domestic violence, foster care and other vulnerable situations.