By Claire Ottaviano
A MISSION of military proportions to help Wooroloo Bushfire victims is underway in Mundaring.
Tucked neatly on the upper floor of Mundaring Arena is Disaster Relief Australia’s (DRA) mission control centre with sleeping quarters and mess hall for weekly rotations of about 50 people who volunteer their time and efforts to help communities recover from disasters.
Mission Commander and NSW firefighter Chris Perrin has worked with DRA, formally Team Rubicon, for the past four years in 13 operations all around the world.
“We are a professional volunteer organisation, we’re disciplined and structured and we run our operations the way that fire services and the military do,” he said.
“First, we send an operational recognisance team to find a place to stay and speak to local authorities and government to see what we can do.”
Everything from chainsaw work to counselling, the work undertaken by volunteers varies from operation to operation.
“When we started here a lot of work was provided from the Community Recovery Centre,” Mr Perrin said.
“We cut down trees, but the most important thing we do is walk through the gate and ask how people are going.
“We don’t force ourselves on anyone or kick the door in, if anyone needs a hand we’re more than happy to see what we can do.
“We have an ethos –we give people a hand up not a hand out.
“Every operation is different depending on the type of community and type of disaster.”
The operation, called Operation Woods, is the first DRA operation in Western Australia.
As the first, the team needed to start from scratch, buying all new equipment from tools and hardware to logistical equipment which will remain at a permanent DRA Perth base.
Mr Perrin said about half of the volunteers were local and the other half had been flown in from around Australia.
“DRA is also really good for our people, a lot are veterans and first responders who have intense comradery and bonding relationships when they’re in their units, but when they get out they miss that sense of purpose and identity,” Mr Perrin said.
“We provide a lot of training opportunities, first aid courses, mental health first aid courses, incident management training and strike team training.
“We’re happy to take people for whatever time they can commit.
“Some of our volunteers have physical injuries and can’t get out of their house so we have back-of-house work they can be tasked with such as travel arrangements.”
Operation Woods is budgeted at $180,000.
It is largely supported by the Minderoo Foundation and from donations which can be made at www.disaster