service projects

Newsletter December 2020 1It has been a difficult year for all Australians. Adversity can fracture any relationship, anything shallow just won’t survive the pressure of high adversity. That’s why I am grateful for what I saw in 2020. In one of the worst years for natural disasters on record, I saw an entire nation pull together, share the burden and the hardship and unite in true Aussie fashion to help each other. 

I saw an army of volunteers mobilise across the country to support total strangers. I saw neighbours running up and down streets all night to protect not just their own homes but their neighbours too.   

I saw DRA members accompany homeowners back to their homes for the first time to discover they had lost everything, and I watched as our members comforted and cried right there with them. But I also saw the change in those same people throughout the day as we worked to salvage anything we could. By the end of the day those heartbroken, shattered individuals were joking and playing along with the rest of us.  They were far from healed, but we had helped them take that all important first step on their healing journey. 

I hope you take the time over Christmas to ‘reach-in’ to those who are important to you, there is no substitute for human connection and people feed off positivity just as readily as they do all the doom and gloom in the media. There is in fact much to be grateful for. 

It has been an incredible year for DRA and we are grateful to all of you for your selflessness and service. 

Merry Christmas,

Geoff Evans

Member Shop

dra members only shop

You will have the opportunity to buy top quality DRA branded 5.11 Tactical gear at a members only 20% discount. The hard wearing, well made gear will include a range of jackets, shirts, pants, boots, belts, hats, accessories and more! Look out for more updates in the new year.
Karyn Lanthois
National Communications Manager

2020 Success and Adversity

What a year it has been. We have seen some of our biggest challenges yet, and seen some changes that have shaped our future. The exciting evolution from TRA to Disaster Relief Australia signified the adoption of an independent, uniquely Australian brand. We have been rewarded with strong support from both existing and new partners. Our partner organisations continue to support us to achieve high impact operations on the ground, as well as a stable foundation for our growing team. 2021 will see the continuation of our major partners, as well as the exploration of some exciting new opportunities.

With the support of our partners and the hard work of many volunteers and staff, even in the face of adversity, we have managed to achieve great things. The rapid escalation of the Black Summer fires saw us scale up from conducting one operation at a time, to conducting five operations across three states concurrently. It was incredibly humbling to witness the service and endurance of our members as they worked tirelessly and selflessly to serve communities in their darkest hours.

Over the 2019/20 Black Summer fires, we provided the following support to communities;

23 October 2019 – 22 March 2020
Volunteers deployed: 523 as well as 69 International Augmentees
Community value: $2,201,507.25
Veterans deployed: 331 plus 64 family members of veterans
Spontaneous Volunteers managed: 143

You can read more about each individual operation here. Our high tempo of Operations was slowed by the global pandemic, and we took a collective pause. The result was the DRT’s stepping up and leading the charge with a number of local activations across the country in a showcase of our agility and resilience in a time of adversity. Our members could also be found on the front line against the pandemic.

In the immediate aftermath of the Black Summer fires, Canberra and Adelaide DRTs were stood up. Forged in fire, they are the first two DRT’s under the DRA banner, and the beginning of our 3 year expansion plan which will see at least another 4 DRTs established in this period.

Disaster Relief Australia used the space created by the pandemic to set strategic goals, and solidify the process, procedure, and framework that will see us grow and thrive over the coming years. As part of this reflection, the back of house team was expanded significantly to support the efforts on the ground. The team in Adelaide will be moving to a dedicated office in early 2021, and we look forward to seeing you all come and visit!

If this year has been about finding strength in adversity, then 2021 is about stability and growth. As an organisation, we have moved from strength to strength through this time. The journey has been tough, and we may be weary, but we are undoubtedly stronger. We will surely draw on that strength again in 2021 as we navigate the coming year.

There’s a poem I turn to when I find my strength being tested, which many of you will already know, having been written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley.

It’s a short and beautiful piece of writing about strength in the face of adversity and I’d like to share this quote with you…

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Invictus by William Ernest Henley

This year has truly seen us dig deep through times of great change and uncertainty. With grit and determination we have remained agile and continued to deliver important help to those who need it most. As an organisation we have shown what we are truly made of. As members, you can all be proud of what you have achieved, and the fantastic team you are part of. We can all look forward to ringing in the new year, and continuing our growth through 2021.

Anastasia Bougesis
Chief Development Officer

Member Awards

Newsletter December 2020 2Disaster Relief Australia celebrated an inaugural awards night on 26th November, 2020. With great thanks, key speaker Ben Farinazzo kicked off the proceedings and touched on his thoughts on how we need to keep working together to strengthen our people, communities and country. He said it requires three things:

1. Sense of purpose. DRA is helping our veterans, first responders and others through providing a sense of purpose by supporting those families and communities in need.

2. Sense of connection. DRA is bringing people together to stand with each other in times of hardship. It is helping people by taking them out of their heads and their homes and helping them to reconnect with others and the world.

3. Sense of joy. Through every challenge it is important to take a moment to celebrate the ‘small wins’. The DRA Annual Awards Ceremony this evening is a wonderful example to reflect and think ‘Bloody hell, we did that!’ And to recognise the service of so many.

We crossed to each DRT to present members with their awards. You can view a video of the entire proceedings. Many thanks to Lee Dalzell our National Membership Experience Manager for organising and MC’ing the online event.

Mateship Award – Rhonda & John Shei

Rhonda and John Sheil are worth recipients of the inaugural mateships award. Many members of DRA have encountered the Sheils on numerous operations over the last 5 years and many have been the recipient of Rhonda’s laundry bags. Rhonda and John are first to help out others. (Michael Young, Canberra DRT Manager)

True Grit Award – Ellie Dean
Ellie Dean has been involved in Membership and Mobilisation since late 2017. Sydney Membership Coordinator, project manager for our first trial CorpVol efforts with Op Cooee and the Surf Lifesavers, pivotal with Op Harding as the local with the intel, the Invictus Games Project and now National Mobilisation Coordinator, Ellie has worn a few hats in the leadership team- each one she has made her own, and we are lucky to have her part of the wider DRA team! (Leasa Stephen, National Mobilisation Manager)

Leadership Award – Chris ‘Ginger’ Grotherr
Ginger has been the MC on Ops & Service Projects. Anyone who has deployed with him will have benefited by his calm & measured leadership style. Ginger has project managed various tasks which are always carried out to a high standard. Recently Ginger has returned to Darwin, where he works as a Police officer, he is still involved in the day to day running of the BNE DRT. (Chris Perrin, Brisbane DRT Manager)

Sydney DRT Champion Award – Alex ‘Foxy’ Gair
Alex “Foxy” Gair was a foundation member of the Sydney DRT and worked as the Ops Coordinator for over 2 years. Foxy is a natural charismatic leader who ensured that Sydney quickly became the premier DRT. Foxy mentored and encouraged the DRT leadership team and always had the capacity to jump in where needed. As the DRT Manager Foxy made my job easy, whenever I had a problem “I threw Foxy at it” and it was solved.

Foxy was an amazing 2IC for the Sydney DRT because he took the time to understand all the roles in the leadership team enabling him to support and mentor new team members. Foxy’s most endearing characteristic is his humility, being recognized by this award will definitely make him uncomfortable, however hard work and humility are what make DRA such a successful organization. Foxy set the standard of DRT leadership in DRA’s formative years and empowered everyone he worked with. The Sydney DRT and DRA would not be where we are today without Alex Gair. (Mark Dobson, former Sydney DRT Manager)

Adelaide DRT Champion Award – Susan Clisby
Susan has performed both the DRT Membership and Mobilisation functions exceptionally well (and many times single-handedly) since the formation of the Adelaide DRT. Extremely capable in the field, Susan is an experienced Strike Team Leader, is Chainsaw Level 1 & 2 certified, and has a great “can do” attitude overall. (Dave Roper, Adelaide DRT Manager)

Townsville DRT Champion Award – Karen ‘Piggy’ Piggott
Piggy (aka Karen Piggott) is the person who you can always rely upon to get the job done, she’s done an amazing job in the thankless role of Membership Coordinator as well wearing the Mobilisations hat. You know she loves the Org and has a heart for the people when you turn up with Blue (aka RSM) to see how everyone is going on the Chainsaw course and Piggy is there with a bung knee (Technical medical term), she wasn’t participating in the Prac but wanted to continue on with the course and support her team mates. That is just one occasion of where Piggy does provide above and beyond support. Congratulations again Piggy. (Adam MacSween, Townsville DRT Manager)

Brisbane DRT Champion Award – Dean ‘Westy’ West
Westy is always ready to jump in to help out whenever needed. He delivers engagement talks at Gallipoli Barracks to the Soldiers Recovery Centre. This has led to many of the participants being recruited into the Brisbane DRT team. Kate, Westy’s wife, also does a lot behind the scenes, mainly getting Westy’s admin sorted up & completed. (Chris Perrin, Brisbane DRT Manager)

Melbourne DRT Champion Award –  Cameron Macdonald
Cameron has been a devoted and enthusiastic member of DRA, having joined our Tribe in 2018.  Deploying on Op Harding, McLeod, Gordon , Grant, Bugden, Partridge and Richter,  he has fulfilled nearly every role available including MC, Ops safety and medic. Cam has not limited himself to just the IMT and has also proven himself to be a potent and effective Strike team leader and a force to be reckoned with on a chainsaw. Cameron exemplifies the term service having served as an infanteer in 3 RAR,  he continues to willingly give of himself in a number of voluntary capacities with volunteer Fire Fighting and SES and indeed has served as DRT Training coordinator where he was responsible for welcoming and inculcating new members to our organisation. (Kyran Byrne, Melbourne DRT  Manager)

Canberra DRT Champion Award – Terry Evans
Terry has been instrumental in the establishment of Canberra DRT since it was first stood up in June 2020. He has worked to migrate all existing members into Muster, assisted with screening calls for members of other DRTs and also led the mobilisation team locally. Terry has lead numerous waves in our Service Project (SP Peel)  in Batlow. (Michael Young, Canberra DRT Manager) 

CEO Award – Jed Lindley
Jed has been with DRA for a long time & was the National Admin Manager. Jed worked tirelessly behind the scenes as Geoff & Markus right hand man, he was always one step ahead & knows every aspect of the organisation & his corporate knowledge is second to none. He’s also very handy on a chainsaw. Jed has taken a step back to enable him to spend more quality time with his young children & still contributes as part of the Brisbane Ops team. (Chris Perrin, Brisbane DRT Manager)

CEO Award – Stacey Swindon
As a foundation member of the membership team Stacey was instrumental to the success of DRA’s first operation. After taking up the reins as National Membership Manager in 2018, Stacey instigated and refined the policies and procedures pertaining to onboarding and recruitment that are still in use today. After moving to the UK Stacey has continued to work remotely behind the scenes to enable the success of the organisation. Stacey has played a critical role in the establishment and launch of Muster and has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to move DRA forward and allow us to achieve our vital mission. All without ever once seeking personal recognition or reward. Stacey’s service has exemplified what selflessness and service looks like, and has set the example for every single member to emulate. (Geoff Evans, CEO)

National Emergency Medals

Our disaster relief teams (DRT’s) met Australia wide on November 15, 2020 to celebrate and recognise the achievements of members awarded the National Emergency Medal. DRA members met in person and participated in an online presentation led by CEO Geoff Evans. First awarded in 2012, the National Emergency Medal is an accolade that recognises significant or sustained service during disasters declared nationally significant by the Governor-General’s office. Criteria for the award includes strict specificities around the duration, location and dates of the service provided during events such as tropical cyclones, floods, and bushfires.

Newsletter December 2020 3

DRA operations Dunlop and Gordon were deployed to assist with Tropical Cyclone Debbie and the North Queensland Floods. Almost 200 members from DRA’s unified team of veterans, first responders and civilians tirelessly logged almost 14,500 hours of assistance. 

38 of our Disaster Relief Australia members were awarded the National Emergency Medal. Read the full article on our website.

ACFID Membership

DRA is now an ACFID Interim Full Member and signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct. The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) is the peak body for the not-for-profit aid and development sector in Australia.  ACFID has a Code of Conduct (the Code), which is a voluntary, self-regulatory sector code of good practice.  The Code serves to improve international development and humanitarian action outcomes and increase stakeholder trust by enhancing the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of ACFID’s members. 

acfid memberOver the last 18 months, we’ve been preparing an application for ACFID membership.  Through this process, a significant amount of time was invested into developing policies, procedures and framework.  This work will contribute to building DRA’s maturity within the sector and help strengthen our reputation as a quality provider of disaster relief and development activities. 

DRA submitted the application for ACFID membership on 30 April 2020 and following a thorough accreditation process, we are pleased to announce that DRA’s application was successful and we have now been admitted as a full member (ratified by ACFID Council on 19 November 2020).  As a full member, DRA is now a signatory to the Code which means that we are committed to full adherence of the principles and obligations of the Code.   With this, comes the responsibility to undertake annual compliance reporting in order to maintain our full member status with ACFID.

Membership to ACFID is a visible stamp of quality and assurance to stakeholders that DRA will adhere to high standards.  As a member of ACFID, we will benefit from shared learning with like-minded organisations and have access to training and resources that will help build our individual and organisational capability to enhance good practices in line with the Code.  This will enable our organisation to be engaged in and informed by dialogue on emerging issues that affect our sector and have the opportunity to contribute to and influence decisions affecting our work and credibility.   For DRA, gaining membership to ACFID has the potential to increase our exposure within the sector, provide additional funding opportunities and in particular it represents the first step in being able to engage the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

This is a huge step for our organisation and one that has taken significant resources to achieve.  Over the next 6 – 12 months you will start to see more references to ACFID as the Code becomes ingrained in our practices. 

To learn more about ACFID visit https://acfid.asn.au/about/acfid
YouTube video:  https://youtu.be/nAnnpkXUDRo 

DRA 19/20 Annual Report

The DRA  19/20 Annual Report has been published and can be obtained from www.disasterreliefaus.org/policies-and-publications

dra annual report

It contains proof of what an impressive bunch of people DRA are. Special thanks to Kathy Maudley for tireless work on compiling the report.

Member Support

What a year it’s been huh?  Not one that we would have chosen to go through I’m sure.  With the fires, floods, Covid and the Brereton report people’s resources have been stretched and perhaps they have exhausted their normal capacity to cope.  It’s understandable that you may be feeling overwhelmed and impacted by the events happening in our world and even in your own family or community.  Christmas can also be a difficult time for many and may come with a flood of memories, regrets, thankfulness, questions or a combination of all of these.

DRA care about the mental and physical wellbeing of all their members.  Did you know that we have a dedicated wellbeing team to help support you? The number to call is 0411 383 138 if you would like to speak to someone from the wellbeing team.  This is a confidential conversation without judgement, assumptions or telling you what to do or feel.  This team is available for you whether you have been on deployment or not.  However, if you feel you would prefer to talk to someone outside of DRA these are some of the support services available to you.

Support Services

For all current ADF members and their families, the Defence all-hours Support Line is a confidential telephone and online service and is available on 1800 628 036.

All current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families can access Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling. It is a national mental health service that provides 24-hour free and confidential counselling. Importantly the Open Arms website provides a range of self-help resources and wellbeing tools. Visit www.openarms.gov.au or phone 1800 011 046.

Lifeline is a wonderful resource for all; www.lifeline.org.au or available 24/7 on 13 11 14. 

Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. You can visit beyondblue.org.au or call them on 1300 22 46 36. 

In addition, Safe Zone Support is an anonymous counselling service that has been established to support veterans and their families impacted by the IGADF Inquiry.  Safe Zone Support is manned by specialist counsellors who have an understanding of military culture and experience and can be accessed at: www.openarms.gov.au/safe-zone-support or 1800 142 072.

Family of veterans or service personnel, can call DVA to seek guidance on the support available. If you are unsure what support is available please contact DVA on 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 372).

May you all take care of yourself during this time and rest, rejuvenate and be ready for whatever 2021 throws at us.  Together, we can overcome anything.

Michelle Bravenboer
National Wellbeing Manager

Social Media & Values

A reminder to all our members on the rules around social media and posting of photos on personal social media accounts.

We encourage all our members to celebrate the work they do as a part of the DRA Tribe in the community be it on an Operation, Special Project or other community engagement events and activities, however, please remember that none of these photos are to be posted without prior vetting by the Marketing and Communications team.

You can submit your photos to our team for approval via comms@disasterreliefaus.org. Once vetted, approved photos will be posted via our public facing Flickr album. You can access and download photos from here and take a look at what your fellow members have been up to as well.

Our Flickr album can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/disasterreliefaus

Please also remember our core values as an organisation: Courage, Mateship, Endurance, Service, Tenacity and Respect, and follow these rules when making comments or posting content.

  1. Be Courteous, Respectful and Welcoming
    Let’s treat everyone with respect. Healthy debates are natural, but kindness is required. Think about your tone and remember that we are all volunteers dedicated to service.
  1. No Hate Speech or Bullying
    Bullying of any kind is not allowed, and degrading comments about things like race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, gender or identity will not be tolerated. Let’s make sure everyone feels safe
  1. Don’t Spam the group
    Give more than you take. Got a business? A little self-promotion is okay as we are sure the tribe would love to get around you. Just keep it occasional. Try to stay on topics relevant to DRA.
  1. Respect Everyone’s Privacy
    Being part of the DRA Tribe requires mutual trust. Authentic, expressive discussions make groups great, but may also be sensitive and private. What's shared in the group should stay in the group.
  1. Moderation Policy
    DRA Leadership reserve the right to moderate and remove posts that do not meet the guidelines above. If your comments don’t serve the culture of the organisation, then they don’t belong here.
  1. Contact Us
    If you would like to query why a post was removed, don’t post about it and draw more attention to yourself. Instead feel free to get in touch with us via feedback@disasterreliefaus.org

The above rules apply not only to Tribe Chatter and respective DRT pages but also on all our external facing DRA accounts that are also followed and enjoyed by the wider community.

Sarah Fitzharris
National Marketing Manager


Op Dexter

dra membership

In early August I was contacted by a local community member in the town of Rosedale, north west of Bundaberg, Queensland about providing assistance to people in the area still recovering from major bushfires from the summer of 2018/19 and 2019/20. There were significant property losses in the area and many were under insured without insurance. A Service Project was thought to be the best way to assist the residents. An ORT was organised to travel to Rosedale and hold a community meeting to gauge the workload.

The community meeting was held on the 24th of August at the Rosedale Memorial Hall with over 60 locals in attendance. The ORT received 44 requests for assistance. It was obvious that it was bigger than a Service Project.

An Initial Situation Report (ISR) was developed and submitted to Field Ops for consideration and after further planning Operation Dexter was announced to deploy on 14th of October. The ADVON team focused on setting up the Forward Operating Base (FOB) and Operations Room and set about deploying damage assessment teams to assess work orders using our new Fulcrum system. 

Due to Covid the operation was only able to call for volunteers from QLD, SA and TAS which restricted numbers somewhat. The waves may have been smaller than in normal times but the teams got through a mountain of work in hot, humid & arduous conditions. The metrics for Op Dexter are as follows: 

  • 42 team members deployed
  • 3380 hours committed
  • $162,776.25 work value 
  • 40 work orders completed
  • 13 Aerial Damage Assessment Teams (ADAT) flights
  • 128 ADAT flight hours

At the completion of the 3rd wave DRA demobbed from the area and returned to our homes. There is strong information available that due to the La Niña weather pattern this year’s cyclone season will be worse than average, so it may not be too far away from deploying teams again in Queensland.

Operation Dexter was named in honour of husband and wife, Thomas & Irene Dexter. Thomas was a Rat of Tobruk and his wife Irene served in the WRAFF. We were fortunate enough to meet their children John and Janice to discuss their parents lives and service. It isn’t often that we get to sit down to talk about who an operation is named after to get a further insight into their service. You read the story of the Dexters here.

I’d like to pass on my appreciation to all of the team members who deployed on Operation Dexter. We had some who were on their 1st operation and some who had a few Ops under their belts. All worked hard to get the job done. The community of Rosedale and the surrounds are much better off for DRA having been in the area to help out.

Theater Commander,
Chris Perrin

Op Turner 

operation turner

On 8 November, a hard working ADVON team deployed to a remote part of Kangaroo Island, SA to set up for Wave 1 of Operation Turner. The team worked hard over two days to prepare the FOB for incoming DRA members. 

Being my first Operation to have planned and rolled out, it was both nerve wracking and satisfying seeing it all come to fruition. With the outstanding efforts of the ADVON team, Wave 1 hit the ground running and by all accounts had a sterling time assisting and building fantastic relationships with all manner of locals.

As has been all too familiar for all of us this year however, a community case of Covid-19 was detected in Adelaide on the second last day of Wave 1. Little did we realise what was about to unfold. On the last working day of Wave 1, whilst toiling away on their respective tasks, and with many from Wave 2 already mobile towards Adelaide, the SA government announced an outbreak of Covid-19 in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. QLD immediately announced the closure of its borders from midnight that night – the time was just after 1pm. I was told the news by the incoming PRO as we shared a baked treat in the Yankalilla Bakery en route to the Kangaroo Island ferry. With 3 Queenslanders on Kangaroo Island we needed to come up with solutions fast.

There was clearly a mass exodus and no commercial flights available. We frantically tried rescue helicopter friends, military connections, and even some politicians. Luckily our Chief Development Officer Anastasia was able to get our three fleeing friends on a private charter to Adelaide airport where they could connect to another charter to Queensland with just over an hour to spare. Unfortunately they still had to quarantine for two weeks, but at least they could do it in the comfort of their own home.

You’d think that’s about as unlucky as it could get, right?!? Wrong! We had also evacuated all other non-South Australian members just in case their borders also closed, leaving only South Aussies on the Island. Quickly Adelaide was ordered into a 6 day lockdown. leaving us with all of the equipment and several additional South Aussies we had sent over to pack up, This time we managed to secure everything in the FOB and transfer all of the members back to Adelaide in plenty of time to stock up on the remaining toilet rolls before heading into isolation for 6 days.

Oh, but wait, there’s more! That happened on the Wednesday, and Op Mason (Adelaide Hills) was due to start in 10 days! So not only did we have the fastest demobilisation of an Operation in DRA history, but we did it twice on the same Op, and have had to postpone both Operations!

But that doesn’t mean we’ve given up. We are already planning to conduct Service Projects in the Adelaide Hills to meet some of the critical needs from Op Mason. And we are already starting to plan a return to Kangaroo Island with more robust Covid-19 considerations. As I’m sure each of you will agree, we’re not giving up that easy. We will improvise, we will adapt, and we will overcome this hurdle together.

Thank you to all of the amazing team that got this mammoth task done. Fingers crossed for a successful return since there is still a massive need of assistance in both Kangaroo Island and Adelaide Hills AO’s.

Scott Rouse “Rousie”
Theatre Commander SA

Service Projects

Whilst the world began to deal with the global COVID emergency, DRA redirected their focus to the development of service projects. These are smaller DRT (disaster relief team) led projects designed to help local communities, whilst also providing opportunities for our members to remain engaged between national operations. SP’s enable DRA to adapt and continue to serve in the evolving COVID situation. 

dra service projects


Led by Brisbane DRT and run over three separate occasions in Woodgate, Queensland. This project included a combination of minor building maintenance, fencing, general cleaning/landscaping, chainsaw (Level 1 and 2) and UAV aerial surveying.


Led by Brisbane DRT, this service project was conducted in the Pine Rivers region of Queensland. Tasks included minor building maintenance and general cleaning.


Led by Melbourne DRT, this service project was conducted in Bunyip, Victoria, and involved general cleaning/landscaping and chainsaw (Level 1 and 2).


This service project was led by Sydney DRT and run in Wallacia, New South Wales, over three separate occasions. Tasks for this service project included general cleaning/landscaping, building maintenance and supporting animal welfare and conservation.


Operation SEXTON was launched to manage a collection of service projects initiated as part of DRA’s COVID-19 response. These service projects were undertaken by Melbourne,Townsville, Sydney and Canberra DRTs and included general yard work and food deliveries for the vulnerable and those in quarantine, strategic rapid support to Foodbank Victoria, emergency services and health authorities in charge of testing and support to government agencies. State based restrictions were followed and all activities were conducted under the direction of agencies with the authority to provide support to members of the community.


A newly spun SP will provide much needed assistance to Adelaide Hills property owners still recovering from the Black Summer bushfires of 19/20. DRA will liaise closely with the Lobethal Recovery Centre to help identify community members who are in most need of our assistance over a series of weekend service projects.


Membership is at the heart of what DRA is able to provide to communities in the wake of natural disasters and we are pleased to report that since April 2020, 435 new members have enrolled. 

A good portion of the membership teams efforts has been focused on the Muster system. We’ve migrated many of DRA’s members onto Muster and have completed a spontaneous volunteer project with Mindaroo. 

Many thanks to all members who have completed their Muster registration. Founder packs are now in the post and on the way to the DRA tribe! 

dra membership

We were pleased to introduce the 2020 Guest Speaker Series featured on the DRA YouTube channel. New speakers will be announced monthly in 2021.

Membership has worked with the Training team to introduce online core ops training in Muster and are currently working with the Comms team to bring you a dedicated members website containing a members only shop!

Lee Dalzell
National Member Experience Manager

Meet Dan Allen

Newsletter December 2020 4Each month we’ll interview a DRA member and get to know them a little better. This month we’re focusing on Dan Allen.

Dan went on his first deployment this year for Operation Dexter on wave 1 and then again on wave 3 as a strike team leader. He’s recently joined the membership team to further develop his skills and help people who truly deserve it. When asked what has surprised him the most about working with DRA, he says “I’ve been overwhelmed with how welcoming other members are and how much it already feels like family”.

Dan follows cricket and soccer but is an agnostic fan, if Australia isn’t playing. He says on weekends his favourite pastime is sleeping but given the time he would love to learn Mandarin!

Dan was brave enough to answer these questions.
1. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Taller.
2. If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you choose? David Beckham.
3. What do you do to turn things around when you’re having a bad day? Gym or smashing something in a controlled environment.
4. If you were an animal what would you be? Condor.
5. Tell us something that might surprise us about you. I’m related to Bryan Adams.

Thanks Dan!


Training this year has changed in many really positive ways; however, we will  focus on just two for brevity. 

The first is that the DVA EESV grant has brought into DRA a degree of funding that has enabled training availability that previously, we could only dream of. Many of you have already benefited from this by way of chainsaw courses (of which we have run 400% more than last FY already), and don’t fret if you have not been available for one of these courses we will be running many more next year.

Newsletter December 2020 5
The second key change is that we now have an in-house e-Learning generation program, and Muster can house and administer the e-Learning courses we create. We have used this capability to build new versions of Core Operations and the Incident Management Team (IMT) courses, with Public Relations Officer (PRO), Strike Team Leader (STL), Fulcrum and safety training packages all in development to roll out the door early next year. 

For all our internal leadership courses (IMT, STL, PRO), there is funding from the DVA grant to make those courses available in all DRT locations. So keep a close eye on the DRA website, Tribe Chatter etc. to ensure you are aware of those offerings next year!

Warwick Lugton
National Training Coordinator


We would not be here if it were not for our volunteers. DRA was and continues to be built on the blood sweat and tears of all our members. DRA was started by a grassroots effort of core volunteers that worked thousands of hours off the shared vision of what we are now growing into today as an organisation. These efforts are now encapsulated within our Disaster Relief Teams  and every other part of our organisation exists to support their growth and capability. We continually endeavour to develop our volunteers by providing a myriad leadership and training opportunities embedded within the ability to serve our community throughout the year.

2021 will see us expand our training offerings across the board. Our bedrock Core Operations course has transitioned to a fantastic online learning platform that will afford all members, regardless of location, to learn the fundamentals for what it means to be a member. Our newly launched IMT course will expand to include scenario driven face to face training. Most notably, we will launch our Strike Team Leader Course which will become our flagship face to face training offering. This will afford members from all corners of DRA the opportunity to transition their skills to the frontline management of our operations and assist in our growing efforts to lead our Spontaneous Volunteer Management capability. Rounding this out will be our Public Relations Officer Course which is essential training for all who want to progress within our leadership team and assist in the crucial development interface on operations. This pipeline of leadership training will all be available alongside further professional development opportunities such as chainsaw, heavy equipment, first aid and RPAS (drone)  qualifications.

Thank you to all our members. We are excited to make these opportunities available to you and hope to see you putting them to use in the field and in life.

Markus Bucy
Chief Operating Officer


Officially, Mobilisation became a free standing team from 1st July this year, when the workload of operational and non-operational membership became too great for just one team. Since then, the focus has been to bring Mobilisation up to full strength by recruiting and training coordinators and associates around Australia.

The mobilisation team has ONE key goal: that of keeping members moving where they need to go, and to get DRA boots on the ground when and where it counts.

dra mobilisation

Operationally the challenges faced in 2020 by Mobilisation started and finished with the core business of our team – that of getting our teams in the field in a timely, professional and prepared way.

In 2020, the mobilisation team moved 1279 of our Tribe mates around the country, getting DRA boots dirty across operations, service projects and training events.

  • 614 tribe members deployed into 7 operations, 4 of which ran concurrently. Members came from every state and territory in Australia
  • 34 Global network tribe mates from 3 countries to support Black Summer FireOps. (Teams from the UK, Norway and the USA)
  • 198 members deployed across 10 service projects across 5 States
  • 467 members coordinated in support of 34 training team events to keep their DRT’s prepped, trained and ready to roll

The biggest curve ball for our team after the restart of ops last month in a COVID-19 world was the rapid demob of Op Turner on Kangaroo Island. This successful collaborative effort demonstrated the teamwork, tenacity and resilience that is the bedrock of our organisation. When the chips are down and things get real in a hurry, the combined forces of both our general members and leaders across all levels of the organisation worked together to achieve the impossible: getting our members home safe.

Leasa Stephen

National Mobilisation Manager


Like all aspects of 2020, fundraising was a challenge, largely due to the uncertainty of the economy. We as an organisation have had some amazing successes come out of this year. We have become a Lions Australia Category B charity partner – the highest level an external organisation can become within Lions. We have also become an integral part of Minderoo’s ability to build resiliency in communities affected by bushfires last summer. 

DRA’s name and brand change has provided new learning for supporters and members alike. The integrity and tenacity you have shown on behalf of Disaster Relief Australia as a member is the best tool to ensuring our long term success in fundraising to remain financially viable, thus maintaining the positive impact we have in communities affected by natural disasters.

Tom Radomski
National Fundraising Manager


sarah and karynWith DRA’s exponential growth in 2020, we’ve needed to add new team members to support our marketing and communications footprint.

Sarah and Karyn joined the DRA team only two months ago and are working out of the Adelaide office.

Meet Sarah Fitzharris National Marketing Manager

Hi everyone, my name is Sarah Fitzharris and on the 12th of October this year I started with DRA as the new National Marketing Manager based in Adelaide as part of the Marketing, Communications and Development Team.

A little about me. I am a marketing and communications specialist with over 15 years’ experience. I have worked various sectors throughout my career including the emergency services, corporate, government and not-for-profit.

I have a big Irish Australian family with three brothers and a sister and am an Auntie to Astrid (2yo) and Frederick (4yo). My partner, Russell and I have a property in the Adelaide Hills, in Macclesfield where we live with our Chocolate Labrador puppy, Willow (who is still in the expensive shoe chewing phase). My connection to the veteran community is through the army (my grandfather was in the army and my little brother, the reserves).

In my role with DRA I am responsible for our social media, brand, advertising/promotion and development of marketing collateral so will always be on the look out for amazing content, images and videos from all areas of DRA to connect with our members, supporters, partners and the communities we serve. For those who I am yet to meet, I look forward to working with you in 2021.

Fun facts: I have no inside voice, my brain doesn’t work until I’ve had coffee and my partners nickname for me is Menace. Everyone else tends to go with Fitzy.

Meet Karyn Lanthois National Communications Manager

I’ve been wanting to work for a not for profit for years. Since discovering computers at Uni in 98, I’ve been obsessed with all forms of digital media and communications. I’ve previously worked in the video game industry, built hundreds of websites for small businesses and spent ten years promoting Australian businesses internationally.

Now in my dream job at DRA, I can’t wait to support our disaster relief efforts with engaging and concise comms. It’s been an avalanche of information, but I can’t believe how much Sarah and I have been able to create, do, inform and promote in just 2 months. I’m keen to start 2021 getting to know more of you more and get on a deployment.

I have two kids (Sophie 26 and Jaxon 21), live in Adelaide CBD, cook a solid curry and have begun PT training with Sarah – I’ll be weilding a chansaw on deployment in no time!

I’m a sci-fi fan of all types (Star Trek is better than Star Wars fight me), I buy too many books and could probably beat you at a game of darts. I like to think I’m funny but I’m probably not.