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Yukoners rally to support Indigenous Australians affected by wildfires

A volunteer group that raised money for fire-ravaged Telegraph Creek, B.C., in 2018 is now looking to do the same for Indigenous communities in Australia.

Tahltan Strong volunteer says Australian wildfires remind her of Telegraph Creek, B.C., in 2018

'It brings back memories of all of the events that happened during the Telegraph Creek fires,' said Jacquie Shorty with the group Tahltan Strong. (Submitted by Jacquie Shorty)

A volunteer group that raised money for fire-ravaged Telegraph Creek, B.C., in 2018 is now looking to do the same for Indigenous communities in Australia.

"It brings back memories of all of the events that happened during the Telegraph Creek fires," said Jacquie Shorty about the devastating Australian bushfires.

Shorty is with the Yukon-based volunteer group Tahltan Strong. It formed in response to the Telegraph Creek fires, which destroyed 20 homes and dozens of other buildings, and forced a months-long community evacuation in 2018. 

Shorty says Tahltan Strong was about finding ways to offer support from afar.

"Those were some of the same feelings that came up as we started to watch with Australia, is the inability to help from such long distance away. But knowing that the Indigenous people over there were in the same situation that the people in Telegraph Creek were," Shorty said. 

The fires still raging in Australia have left thousands of people homeless and killed more than 20 people and millions of animals.

In this image released by the Australian Department of Defence and dated Jan. 7, smoke and haze hangs over mountains near Cooma, New South Wales from a No. 11 Squadron P-8A Poseidon conducting damage assessment and surveillance in the bushfire affected area. (Australian Dept. of Defence/The Associated Press)

Shorty says her group has already been in touch with Indigenous groups in Australia, to offer support. She said the Australians were uncertain at first, not knowing anything about Tahltan Strong. 

"How we began our relationship was that we identified by our Indigenous roots. So I explained to them about where I come from, who I am," Shorty said.

"[I] shared my traditional name and talked about, you know, spirituality and how we as a people need to stand together and hold each other up, no matter where we are."

Shorty says her group is just getting the ball rolling on fundraising.

In 2018, Tahltan Strong volunteers organized a successful benefit concert in Whitehorse for Telegraph Creek — something they may do again for Australia.

The group is holding a meeting Wednesday evening in Whitehorse for anybody who wants to get involved. It's at the Coast High Country Inn at 6 p.m.

New mobile homes were installed in Telegraph Creek in late 2018, for residents to move back. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

With files from Christine Genier

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