I am proud to be a part of the Australian wine industry – a nation-wide yet close-knit community of hard-working, honest and skilled individuals with a passion for a great world-renowned product. This month, in the face of Australia’s worst flooding on record, I am increasingly impressed and humbled by the openness, generosity and compassionate spirit of this community. This article summarises key fundraising efforts and provides links so that people can help and also see who is contributing.
Unprecedented devastation and loss
The horrific and distressing scenes confronting Australians during January 2011 from the floods across Queensland, NSW and Victoria have shocked us all and reminded us how vulnerable we are against the elements. The death toll in Queensland has passed 20 and three quarters of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone. The devastation is unprecedented and the damage is ongoing. The cleanup and fallout will run into months, even years.
Economists predict that losses and damage to property, infrastructure, crops, mining, businesses and more, will shave at least 1% off the national GDP, with costs expected to spiral to several billion dollars.
While the economic loss is devastating, the sadness and shock impacting upon so many people and the repeated testing of the human spirit is what has hit most Australians the hardest. I know I have felt sick to my stomach and been reduced to tears several times watching the terrible events unfold on the television and internet. It brought to mind the recent disasters of the scale of 9/11 and the Boxing Day tsunami – but this was so much closer to home.
Everyone with an ounce of humanity has wanted to help, across Australia and overseas. Thousands have pitched in with practical help in the rescue and recovery efforts and then in the mammoth clean-up task which will continue for months. Many millions of dollars were raised very quickly across Australia through personal and business donations. People have opened up their homes to those displaced and donations are being made of practical and vital items, like food and clothes. There are fundraising events of all kinds – concerts, comedy events, dinners, sporting events, and ongoing collections at shops, pubs, in the street, online, and many many more. I would find it hard to believe (or condone) if anyone has not done something to help.
It is also a time when we can appreciate the usefulness and practicality of social media in supporting those in need and linking people in all locations and walks of life to coordinate the laudable responses we are seeing.
Inspiring wine industry initiatives
I noticed the growing buzz around Twitter and Facebook as the nation’s wine industry began pulling together to help flood victims. These are just a few of the initiatives I came across.
Australian Wine Trade Flood Relief Raffle
The first example I noticed is being organised by the Brisbane-based wine writer Tyson Stelzer, a name well-known to the wine industry. He has set up the Australian Wine Trade Flood Relief Raffle with colleague Mark Folker. I read about it first in Decanter.com, on 13 January 2011, the day after the appeal was launched: Queensland: wine industry rallies round flood victims. Already multinational drinks company Foster’s had donated $500,000 and offers had started from wineries.
Stelzer came up with the idea saying “There are so many people in the Australian wine industry who have contacted me to say they want to do something to alleviate the situation in Queensland. We have close family and friends that have been affected and now is the time to rally the industry.”
The appeal asks for assistance from people from all parts of the wine industry and the public to support the cause. From winemakers, importers and distributors: “We would appreciate donations of raffle prizes. Perhaps a case of wine or two, a special bottle, a membership or event ticket?” From retailers “We would like to ask for your help to sell tickets.” Freight companies were asked to assist in delivery and media to spread the word. The raffle tickets were on sale from 4 February until 4 March for $30 each. The website http://www.winefloodrelief.com.au/ showed where to buy tickets, the list of contributors and the incredible list of prizes.
It is humbling to look at the immense list of contributors to this initiative, accompanied by heartening messages of support. Furthermore, one of the first wineries to donate was Kaeserberg Vineyard in the Lockyer Valley. Jason Kaeser writes: “I had a small vineyard and winery on the bank of Lockyer Creek until the flood took it all yesterday. My wife and I are absolutely heartbroken but so grateful that we just made it out alive with our three dogs.” He goes on to say “I would like to donate a total of 4 dozen bottles of wines. I will be contacting my suppliers and friends to support this as well.”
In just a few weeks, over 400 companies from all over Australia pledged donations of wine, memberships, tours, books, dinners, tickets to events and more. I encourage people to look through the list provided on the Australian Wine Trade Flood Relief Raffle website and read the comments accompanying the pledges. It restores your faith in humanity.
The final amount raised was $276,848.90 of which 70% was donated to the Queensland Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal and 30% to the Red Cross Victoria Flood Relief Appeal. Expenses amounted to just 1.3% of the funds raised.
Thanks go to Tyson and Mark, plus VisitVineyards.com for their partnership in running this project and to KDJM Communications for a PR campaign that reached a potential audience in excess of five million. Huge thanks must go to the wineries, retailers and couriers who have participated in this cause.
Just some of the wineries donating are (in no particular order):
Kaeserberg Vineyard, Majella, Alkoomi, Mitolo, Tim Adams, Chapel Hill, O’Leary Walker, Teusner, Elderton, Casa Freschi, Hanging Rock, Geoff Merrill, Sylvan Springs, Cape Mentelle, Irvine, Kellermeister, Angove, Shingleback, Hidden Creek, Hahndorf Hill, Forester Estate, Watershed, Symphony Hill, Howard Vineyard, Hollick, Cullen, Taylors, Gilberts, Koltz, Tyrells, Torbreck, Jasper Hill, Spinifex, John Duval, Were Estate, Chateau Tanunda, Cumulus, Eldridge, Shaw and Smith, Currency Creek, Lakes Folly, Paradigm Hill, Zema, Rockbare, Paringa Estate, Pauletts, Tamar Ridge, Mount Mary, Wirra Wirra, Voyager Estate, Primo Estate, Wild Duck Creek Estate, Capel Vale, Chandon, Blue Poles, Grosset, First Drop Wines, Giaconda, Ulithorne, Margan, Hentley Farm, Sirromet, Lucas Estate, Kirrihill, Leconfield, Nugan Estate, Arrivo, Ballast Stone, Kay Brothers, Katnook Estate, Rockford, Peter Lehmann, Sevenhill, Blue Pyrenees, Vasse Felix, and many more…
The Great Aussie Wine-athon
Simon Holt of Winery2u.com has organised The Great Aussie Wine-athon, with 30 wineries from NSW and Victoria providing wine to sell, from which up to $200 will be donated to the Queensland Flood Appeal for each case bought from the site until January 31. Deals are shown on the website.
Participating wineries include: Di Lusso Estate, Miramar, Marist Brothers, Silos Estate, Mount Burrumboot Estate, Burnbrae, Mount Broke, Belgravia, Bidgeebong, Rosby, McKellar Ridge and Orange Mountain.
Victorian Restaurants Unite
Victoria’s restaurant industry has got together to host a series of fundraising events on Australia Day, 26 January 2011, at a fixed price for the consumer, preferably using produce donated by food and wine suppliers and the labour of volunteering staff. Each participating restaurant will donate all or part of their takings on Australia Day to the relief fund, with the exact percentage donated listed on the website. Victorian wineries Dexter Wines and Tellurian Wines have pledged support.
Canberra Wines Fundraising Dinner
The Canberra wine region is helping flood victims in Queensland. Led by Michael Tabart, the ACT Wine Industry Network has organised a dinner and auction at La Scala Italian Restaurant on 3 February. Canberra District wineries providing wine for the event include Clonakilla, Eden Road, Little Bridge, Lambert, Lerida Estate, McKellar Ridge, Barton Estate, Yarrh, Gundog, Domaine Rogha Crois, Four Winds, Affleck, Yass Valley, Shepherds Run, Jeir Creek, Dionysus, Poacher’s Pantry and Wily Trout, Tallagandra Hill, Koonaburra, Pankhurst Wines and Lark Hill. Details can be found at the Canberra District Wines website.
Charity With Wine
The online wine site Charity With Wine is donating $40 per dozen to the Queensland flood relief.
And there’s more!
The examples provided are far from an exhaustive list. I am also aware of wineries providing wine to retailers and donating those proceeds to the flood relief appeal, and not looking to publicise this fact. I came across a number of wine dinners being held with ticket proceeds going to the flood relief. For South Australia where I live there is a dedicated web page providing details about South Australia’s flood relief efforts, of all magnitudes, to which wineries and wine retailers are often contributors. I assume all states and territories will have something similar.
All of this is on top of donations to the main funds organised by State, Federal and Commonwealth governments.
A last word…
This will be the toughest period in many people’s lives. Yet adversity begets generosity. This is a time to be proud of the Australian wine industry.