Nicholas Fabiano sitting on a rail outside the front entrance of the Bourbon Theatre, with the sign advertising the benefit concert in the background.
Nicholas Fabiano in front of the Bourbon Theatre. Photo by Wayne Moss

Nebraska may be over nine thousand miles away from Australia, and seemingly unaffected by the Australian bushfires, but one Lincoln resident believes it is a cause for concern here in the Heartland.

Wanting to take any action he could to contribute to wildfire relief in southeastern Australia, Lincoln resident Nicholas Fabiano organized the Australia Bushfire Benefit concert held at the Bourbon Theatre Saturday evening.

“Animals was my biggest thing,” Fabiano said, recalling what motivated him most. “You know, the people get a lot of attention but I hate the fact that five percent of koalas remain.”

Fabiano grew sick of seeing the devastation the bushfires inflict on the wildlife, deciding he needed to make an impact. It was just three weeks ago that he started planning the benefit concert after seeing news coverage for the bushfires dwindle from the heavy coverage the fires were getting.

“Lately there’s been so much press with Kobe and the impeachment and things like that, suddenly it’s not on the forefront, but there is still bushfires going on,” Fabiano said.

As an employee of the Bourbon Theatre, Fabiano used the contacts he’s met through the venue, as well as management team and other coworkers, to bring everything together in such a short amount of time.

The Zooeys, Hall County Incident, The Other Side of Now and Bucka Ruse were the four local bands Fabiano and his coworkers got for the entertainment for the evening downstairs while a raffle was held upstairs. Alongside sponsoring the entire event, FlyDogz provided gift cards for the raffle. The Bourbon Theatre donated one of the bigger prizes, which was a golden ticket which gave one lucky winner access to all the concerts for the entire year. ConAgra, Embassy Suites, Bison Witches and G&G Smoke Shop were also among the fourteen Lincoln businesses that donated prizes for the raffle.

Despite all the fun involved with watching local bands and putting on a raffle giveaway, Fabiano said before the night began why it matters that even residents in Lincoln be concerned about the impact the Australian bushfires are having on the environment.

Fabiano said bushfires in Australia were actually not uncommon at all in the past.

“Bushfires have always existed in Australia, but not to this extent,” he said.

Bushfires like these actually contribute to most of the carbon emissions coming from Australia historically. Despite the continent having a history of recurring wildfires, Fabiano explained that recent changes in the climate have reduced the areas’ ability to naturally recover from these annual events.

Heavy rains over the past two weeks in the fire-inflicted areas have provided relief for many animals and residents, but Fabiano is mostly concerned with the irreversible damage. Flyers he had at the event informed the audience that 1,300 homes have been destroyed, roughly five percent of koalas remain in their natural habitat and over a billion other animals were taken by the fire. Fabiano emphasized that many of these animals, like the koala, are endemic species only found in certain regions of Australia.

All the proceeds from the benefit concert will be going to charities helping provide relief for the wildlife and residents. One Tree Planted and the World Wildlife Foundation were Fabiano’s main choices to receive the proceeds since he believes they are in need of the most funding and will have the greatest impact in relief efforts. The Australian Red Cross will also receive some of the proceeds from the event.