UNE providing bushfire support

Picture supplied by a UNE volunteer.
Picture supplied by a UNE volunteer.

The University of New England (UNE) has provided crucial support to the New England community during the bushfire crisis.

Since September, UNE has worked closely with the NSW Rural Fire Service at a command level, as well as releasing more than 80 staff who work as volunteer firefighters.

Vice Chancellor and CEO Professor Brigid Heywood said that the university supports staff, students and the community on an ongoing basis.

"Our community has been hit hard by the combination of the drought and now the fires that have burnt millions of hectares of northern NSW since September," Professor Heywood said.

"UNE has to date supplied nearly 2000 overnight stays to volunteer firefighters from three states, and NSW National Parks staff at our residential colleges.

"The college kitchens supplied about 7000 meals to these welcome guests."

The University has made special provisions for staff affected by bushfire, and assistance - including financial support - to affected students.

For students affected by fires, there are assessment extensions and consideration for students unable to sit exams or attend intensive schools.

A student Emergency Assistance Fund has been made available from the UNE Foundation and the University to provide quick response grants for UNE students experiencing financial hardship affecting their ability to continue their academic studies.

"Our on-campus students are traditionally from farms, stations, and country communities, so it's vital that we provide them with adequate support to ensure their studies are not interrupted by the long term impacts of the bush fires," Professor Heywood said.

"For our staff, we have made available on-campus college accommodation as needed, leave for those staff who are members of an emergency service organisation or other volunteer service performing similar functions."

Professor Heywood said that UNE researchers will play an important role in helping the region to recover in the longer term.

"Our researchers are monitoring the health of waterways bearing loads of ash and silt to the ocean; working with Indigenous people on the reintroduction of ancient cultural burning practices; and developing practical policy solutions aimed at strengthening the resilience of country communities dealing with natural challenges," the Vice-Chancellor said.

This story UNE providing bushfire support first appeared on The Armidale Express.