City of Kwinana employee Gerry Fitzmaurice heads massive donation drive for Ukrainian aid efforts
A City of Kwinana playground safety inspector says his experiences as an army reservist in Ireland in the 1970s prompted him to help refugees fleeing Ukraine, with his efforts sparking a flurry of donations across Kwinana.
Property services officer Gerry Fitzmaurice helped set up a collection point at local youth space The Zone in Kwinana Town Centre for those wishing to donate any supplies to Ukrainian aid efforts.
Mr Fitzmaurice said when news broke of Russia’s war on Ukraine, he got to work right away in finding the right connections to offer assistance.
While he usually prefers to “stay anonymous”, Mr Fitzmaurice said in some cases, “you have to step up”.
“I was an army reservist for the 3rd Field Army Corp of Engineers in the Republic of Ireland and in 1974 we saw masses of refugees come from Northern Ireland,” he said.
Known colloquially as ‘The Troubles’ across Ireland and Northern Ireland, conflict between nationalists and unionists saw violence erupt mainly in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s and ended with the Belfast Agreement of 1998.
The conflict resulted in thousands of deaths and even more refugees.
“You could see the distress on people’s faces, but also relief and hope,” Mr Fitzmaurice said.
“Some of the Ukrainian refugees may settle in Australia and some may be away from home in Ukraine for a while.”
Whichever the case, Mr Fitzmaurice was determined to help with donations including medical supplies, books, toys and stationery.
He connected with a Ukrainian organisation based in Melbourne that has family and contacts in Ukraine, with specific requests to be met. Qantas gives priority to items bound for Ukraine and transports them within 48 hours.
“When I gave the gear to the logistics officer for the Ukraine Association of WA, Terence Dewar, he was blown away by how the City of Kwinana’s employees and the public had gotten behind it,” Mr Fitzmaurice said.
“His wife’s family are from Ukraine and the first aid supplies went with a shipment via Qantas to Poland (last) Sunday.”
The collection box at The Zone’s reception desk was filled three times over with public donations to support refugee families that have settled in Perth and a collection box that circulated in the City’s administration building and depot collected two storage containers’ worth of supplies in a matter of weeks.
Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams thanked Mr Fitzmaurice for his selfless efforts to support Ukrainians.
“These actions reflect the strong community spirit that is felt in Kwinana, its council and staff, but it really is a cause that goes beyond our boundary,” Ms Adams said.
Mr Fitzmaurice has now enlisted the support of his brother John Fitzmaurice whose workplace Inpex has also donated surplus first aid supplies.
Donations are still being sought for a long list of medical supplies, particularly LED head lamps with batteries included which cost just a few dollars from major hardware stores like Bunnings.
The Ukraine Association of WA is also collecting cash donations for help with accommodation, clothing for infants and medical needs of families seeking refuge in Perth.
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