Forging community connections one tool library at a time

As a community service organisation, Rotary has a long history of providing practical help for communities in times of crisis.

WA Rotary Relief exists precisely for that purpose, and is ready to provide disaster relief in the aftermath of bushfire, flood, cyclone, earthquake and more.

The Wooroloo bushfire response in February 2021 was just one example.

Rotary was able to contribute $540,000 towards the relief effort, raised from Rotary clubs and individual Rotarians, Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS), The Rotary Foundation disaster funding, and donations sourced from philanthropists, community groups and individuals.

WA Rotary Relief Chair Peter Durrant said the local team welcomed advice from Rotary teams in other states who have dealt with bushfire response in recent years. This enabled them to hit the ground running and provide immediate support to people affected by the Wooroloo blaze.

“Advice is shared across the country and ideas for the impacted communities of Wooroloo and Gidgegannup came from Lions and Rotary collaborating in support of our communities in Victoria, South Australia and NSW, all of whom had been through similar situations,” Peter said.

Relief was provided in three main categories, with an emphasis on practical funding assistance –$210,000 for sea containers for secure on-site storage, $161,000 to support volunteers rebuilding fencing and $67,000 to establish tool libraries for ongoing use for the local communities.

Forty-seven sea containers were supplied to households in the fire zone to store items safely on their properties. This was a challenge at a time when quality containers were difficult to find, but appreciation from the recipients showed just how valuable this donation was to them at the time.

Rotary helped BlazeAid’s volunteer fencing teams by supporting their temporary campsite and providing additional fencing supplies to complement materials donated from other sources.

Rotary worked with the City of Swan and Shire of Mundaring on the tool libraries project, with facilities now established at Tilden Park in Gidgegannup and the Wooroloo General Store to provide access to tools for the longer-term rebuilding process.

“We think the tool libraries are more than the provision of tools for work – they are managed by Rotarians, both sympathetic and empathetic to those using the facility and part of the healing process, with a warm cuppa tea and chat on offer whenever the tool library is open for business,” Peter said.

With approximately 100 clubs across WA and more than 2,000 well-connected members, Rotary is uniquely placed to respond quickly and practically to events such as bushfire.

“The beauty of our organisation is that Rotary clubs all over our state, country and internationally can quickly join and co-ordinate whatever assistance is needed as a cohesive group,” Peter said.