Koala photo that broke my heart
When I look at a map of all the bushfires burning in Australia, it doesn’t seem real. It’s scary to think about how many people, families and animals have been affected.
My home town is Canberra and about a week ago we had the most toxic air in the world. It was heartbreaking to see smoke choking the streets of the city where I grew up. It’s usually a clean place that I feel lucky to call home. I never thought I’d see it like this.
For those of us not directly in the path of the fires, the smoke is a daily reminder of what other people are dealing with out there. But I still don’t think we fully understand just how tragic this whole situation actually is, with at least 24 people dead.
They’re also saying we’ve lost half a billion animals. I’ve been thinking, what does half a billion dead animals even look like?
It’s been reported that the bushfires have burnt through something like 10 million hectares of land. That’s far more than the recent California and Amazon fires combined, and the fires are so big that they are apparently creating their own weather systems. It’s beyond comprehension.
A couple of my friends were trapped on the New South Wales south coast for a couple of days recently, with fires all around them. They were sending me photos of what they were seeing and everything was red. It looked apocalyptic.
I can’t imagine being in the middle of that.
Some other family friends watched the fires come within just a couple of hundred metres of their home.
I’ve seen photos of families crying after they’ve lost everything, fearing for their lives. When you see something like that, you can’t help but feel. And wonder what you can do to help.
‘My only regret’
Like many Australians I’ve been following the coverage of these fires for months, but it wasn’t until the summer rolled around that I realised I could make a difference.
Aussie tennis players always get plenty of attention over the summer and I decided to use that platform to help raise exposure and do some good.
When I put out that tweet, pledging to donate $200 for every ace I hit this summer to help with bushfire relief, I knew that some people would get on board. But I never expected the response that we’ve seen in the last week.
We’ve got some of the best tennis players in the world making donations, including Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova. Our world number one, Ash Barty, is dedicating all her prize money from the Brisbane International. Incredible.
My ATP Cup teammates, Alex de Minaur and John Millman, are right behind the cause as well. I’ve had NBA players messaging me and saying they’ll help, including Dirk Nowitzki who said he would match my donation. Maty Ryan from the Socceroos is another one, along with many other Australian athletes.
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Watching bushfires tearing across the Australian landscape, claiming lives, homes, businesses and millions of hectares of ecosystems. Amazing seeing the heroism of firies and communities in the face of such terrible conditions. For the next fortnight all the profits from sales of our book will go to @redcrossau, @wireswildliferescue and @australianwildlifeconservancy. You can get your copy on my website – link in my bio.
If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from this, it’s that people have a heart and want to help. They just need to be shown how. We’re seeing that with the incredible work being done by comedian Celeste Barber with her online fundraising campaign, raising almost $50 million (and counting) from people all around the world. She’s been inspirational.
I believe that as athletes, the amount we can help with has no limit. We don’t even have a choice; we have to chip in.
It’s been tough to concentrate on playing tennis lately, while my country and home is literally burning and people are losing their lives. But I try to draw strength from knowing that every ace I hit is going to a good cause.
But until the fires are out, I won’t rest easy. Even after that, many people and entire communities will face the tough challenge of rebuilding and we can’t forget about them.
If I regret anything, it’s not doing something sooner. These fires have been burning since September and I was seeing people being affected by this disaster every day, feeling helpless.
I realise now that I’m blessed to have the platform that I do, so I can help make a difference because there are many things that are more important than sport. That’s what I choose to focus on.
My biggest inspiration this summer is our firefighters. They’re the most important people we have on our side right now. They put my job as a tennis player into perspective, that’s for sure.
Seeing what they have to deal with out there, I don’t think our firefighters will ever receive enough praise. They’re putting it all on the line for every Australian, for our country and for our animals. There’s no greater example of selflessness than that.
How you can help
If the fires continue to burn like they have, you can only imagine the statistics we’ll see at the end of the summer. We’ve already lost half a billion animals, with almost two months of summer still ahead of us.
With their homes on fire, these animals have nowhere to go. I saw a photo of a koala sitting on a patch of unburnt grass recently, with flames all around it. It was completely helpless.
The saddest part is that many threatened species have been caught up in this tragedy. For some, we could be seeing their last days before they are gone forever.
That’s why I’ve chosen WIRES – the Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service – as the charity I want to support this summer.
- Head to Nick’s Facebook page to donate now. Link below.
We’ve already lost more than half a billion precious Australian animals – this tragedy ain’t going to stop anytime…
WIRES are the largest wildlife rescue organisation in Australia, and they’re doing an incredible job going in there to help injured, displaced and distressed animals. It’s important that we support them, because they don’t currently have the resources to cope with the enormous task in front of them.
I’ll be sharing a fundraiser on my Facebook page, and I believe the sky is the limit for what we can do together. There isn’t an amount of money that can solve these problems, but if we all chip in we can make a massive difference.
I’ve been passionate about animal welfare for some time now. I don’t eat meat or dairy anymore. That’s not for my health, I just don’t believe in eating animals.
I tried a vegan diet a couple of years ago but with all the travel I do, it was hard to stick to it. Since then I’ve managed to make it work, and I’ve been vegetarian for quite a while.
Seeing the footage of these animals suffering with the fires only reinforces why I’ve chosen this diet. When I see these terrible photos, I can’t comprehend eating meat.