EMERGENCY Relief Australia (ERV) is a key emergency-recovery coordinating body that has been present in Mirboo North since the February storms, with affected residents registering for support through the ERV.

ERV provides Disaster Relief Australia (DRA) volunteers with their jobs, allocate their work orders, and report back to ERV once all is completed within their timeframe.

The DRA are currently working all hands on deck for a six-week period that began at the beginning of June.

“Disaster Relief Australia offers very specific skillsets, but it’s also volunteer-based so it’s a much lower cost to the community,” DRA Chief Business Officer, Gary Sanderfield said.

Hard work: Disaster Relief Australia volunteers putting in the hard yards. Photograph: Tom Hayes

Jordon Klowss had been the Mission Commander for the DRA’s fourth week of operations that extends across the Mirboo North community, including helping clear the carnage created from the storms that was inflicted onto residents’ properties.

“There’s been a lot of devastation in the community, a lot of (the) members of the community have been quite severley affected on their properties just noting how close some of the vegetation and bushland is.

“So, we’ve been getting out (and) showing a lot of support to those members of the community as well, which is a high priority for us, in addition to doing these community jobs too,” Klowss said.

The DRA has developed partnerships with a number of major corporations including NAB in 2023 and recently with the AFL following the long-standing business relationship between the two.

“(NAB) have made financial contributions but they’ve also made contributions in regards to supporting us in order to develop strategic plans and governance, so, they offer a lot of back-house support as well,” Sanderfield said.

The DRA has completed four operations in which they had corporate volunteers from NAB in the trenches supporting major clean-ups.

“It takes many hands to support the community and support them in the uplift, and they bring their corporate volunteers out (which is) a duel win for both the community and for the NAB volunteers because it gives them a different perspective from their daily life and their daily routine… a team engagement experience like they’ve never experienced before,” Sanderfield said.

Sanderfield was thrilled to see the high-ups of the AFL lend a hand, literally, during the course of the day too.

“They are additional boots-on-the-ground, they are an impact multiplier for us and if we can get them out there and support the community clean-up, it’s a win for them and a win for us as well,” he said.

The DRA is still working to grow their identity to become a much more known and sought-after entity by utilising the AFL’s immense popularity and status across the country.

“If you are the community we serve or the recruits that we are trying to find, you don’t know who we are and you don’t know we exist, so the AFL plays a key role in developing that brand awareness for us,” Sanderfield said.

From the AFL, no bigger figure than chief executive Andrew Dillon was on the ground at the Mirboo North Golf Club to help with the clean up on Tuesday, June 25.

Team effort: Disaster Relief Australia, AFL, and NAB volunteers gather together to commemorate the work they did on Tuesday, June 25. Photograph: Tom Hayes

Dillon and another eight to ten AFL representatives made their way to the devastated Mirboo North Golf Club as early as 9.30am on June 25, and with the help of DRA and NAB, helped clear the mess left from the February storms.

“We’ve been talking with Disaster Relief Australia and from an AFL point of view how we can partner with them, and they’ve been down here for a few weeks now and the timing worked well – I’m glad that we could be here just to make a tiny contribution,” Dillon said.

AFL Commissioner, Simone Wilkie – a former member of the defence force, sparked the AFL’s interest in becoming partners with DRA, with the number of ex-defence personnel involved with the DRA.

“I just felt that the work that Disaster Relief Australia are doing in communities so much aligns with what we want to do at the AFL… the alignment of values was really important to me, and we’ve got a lot of staff all around Australia and if we can help Disaster Relief Australia in a small bit then that’s great for us,” Dillon added.

Last week in Mirboo North, despite his volunteering efforts, Dillon joked he was “very unskilled labour”, yet the teams from the AFL and NAB helped clear more fairways at the golf course, moving wood to be burnt off.

Dillon told the Express that this was the AFL’s first involvement with DRA, but hope to be involved in more volunteering efforts around the country in the future.

“I want to provide an opportunity… if we can do this all around Australia its a great alignment. We are a nation-wide organisation and so is Disaster Relief Australia, and unfortunately there is more and more work to do in this space,” he said.

Dillon and the AFL previously helped the Mirboo North community, by giving the football-netball club a grant worth $5000, which was used to get the club’s facilities back in working order as soon as possible.

“The Gippsland community and Mirboo North in particular, its just so important for the AFL. Community footy is the lifeblood of our competition and where we can help, we love to do it,” he said.

After lunch, the group of DRA, NAB and AFL volunteers gathered to commemorate the occasion, filled with speeches from Sanderfield, Dillon and South Gippsland Shire Mayor, Clare Williams.