For nearly three decades, firefighters on Australia’s Gold Coast have been showing their softer sides by posing for calendars for a good cause. Proceeds from profits go to local rescue groups and hospitals helping wildlife, which was decimated by the terrible wildfires of 2019-2020.
For 2022, the calendar returns for a 29th year, with US sales supporting Greater Good Charities endeavors, including Rescue Rebuild. We caught up with David Rogers, Director of the Australian Firefighters Calendar, to learn more about the initiative.
How did the idea for the calendar originate?
In 1993, a few Queensland-based firefighters wanted to attend the World Firefighters Games in Perth the following year, so they came up with the idea of creating a calendar to sell - the sales of the calendar would pay for flights and accommodations at the games. The calendar was so popular they raised more than enough funds for the trip, and they decided to donate the excess funds to the Children’s Hospital Foundation, in particular the children’s burns unit.
As the popularity of the calendar grew throughout Queensland and the rest of Australia, so did the donations. The explosion of international interest came from 2015 when the calendar introduced rescue and therapy animals into different editions, starting with cats and dog, then adding horses, farm animals, and Australian wildlife.
The Australian Firefighters Calendar is now sold in 99 countries. The firefighters appear on numerous TV shows, magazines articles, and social media posts around the world. With all this attention, one thing never changes, and that’s the ethos forged nearly 30 years ago - that we help those who can’t help themselves. That’s what motivates these humble Aussie heroes to come back every year to create this iconic calendar.
Why did you decide to partner with Greater Good Charities this year?
Greater Good Charities have previously posted about the calendar on their social media sites, and they were the only charity organization we wanted to work within the US. Greater Good Charities’ mission aligns perfectly with what’s important to us. We believe this will be the start of a long-lasting relationship, and our intention is to make an enormous contribution to the US causes through the Greater Good Charities network.
Which local charities in Australia does the AFC support, and can you tell us a bit about them?
The charities that will be benefitting from the 2022 Australian Firefighters Calendar are as follows:
- Currumbin Wildlife Hospital
- Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital
- Native Animal Rescue
- Wildcare Inc
- Safe Haven Animal Rescue Inc
- Fauna Rescue SA
- Healing Hooves
- Reason to Thrive
- Kids with Cancer Foundation
- Land of the Free
- Australian Seabird Rescue
These small, locally-focused charities receive very little to no government assistance. They’re staffed by dedicated animal lovers, who are committed to saving domestic and wildlife animals across Australia.
Healing Hooves and Reason to Thrive are small organizations that use therapy and rescue horses to assist children and adults suffering from ADHD through to anxiety and depression.
Land of the Free is petitioning governments around the world to stop the senseless killing of animals for trophy hunting. Their 2020 documentary (Land of the Free: Animal Trafficking Redefined) has been widely acclaimed throughout the independent film festivals around the world. They are supported by such formidable wildlife lovers including Priscilla Presley and Tippi Hedren, and are currently working on raising funds for a feature film. This is where we hope to assist.
How is Australia recovering from the devastating bush fires of 2019-2020?
The enormous loss of wildlife is unimaginable. The destruction the bush suffered will take a very long time to heal. The homes of our surviving wildlife were completely obliterated, and it’s hard to estimate the time it will take to see the numbers of native animals back in these areas.
Is there any competition (healthy or otherwise!) between the firefighters?
You bet there is! By sharing this unique experience, they’ve become firm friends, and although they’d never admit it, there are plenty of friendly rivalries!
The calendar covers are the most sought-after position. It’s so hard just to be invited to the photoshoot, so telling someone that they have taken out a front cover is one of the better parts of my job. All of them have become firm friends, and they share a very unique experience.
What’s the most mischievous animal the firefighters have had to deal with when shooting the wildlife calendar?
Cats! They are the most difficult by a country mile! When you think of the number of animals we work with through this photoshoot, every year the cats are the most difficult. They do what they want, when they want, they scratch the firefighters! It’s a circus trying to do a photoshoot with cats.
As the saying goes, dogs have owners, cats have staff – and after shooting with cats for 5 years I can tell you that’s 100% correct! Having said that, the number of firefighters that have adopted the cats from the photoshoot surprises me!
Have there been any major animal-related mishaps during the shoots over the years?
Nothing major, just the usual scratches from cats, bites from goats, kicks from horses, and claw marks from koalas. And of course, every animal loves to pee and poo on a firefighter during the photoshoot!
What’s a common misconception about Australia?
That we have kangaroos as pets.
Any plans yet for the 2023 calendar?
If we are lucky enough, we would love to come to the United States and shoot some of the 2023 calendars there. The Australian Firefighters Calendar is a best-selling calendar in the US, and we are eager to come over and show our support and appreciation. The American people were a source of enormous compassion throughout the bushfires here in 2019, and we will never forget that.
All seven editions of the 2022 Australian Firefighters Calendar are available here.