News Articles and analysis

Support during bushfires

As the bushfire crisis continues to envelop Victoria and the country we are in awe of the many Victorians – firefighters, community organisations and everyday citizens – doing so much to get through this awful time and help their neighbours do the same.

Below is a list of financial, legal, accommodation and other resources for those in fire affected areas, which we hope might be useful to have in one place.

If you’re looking for a way to help, monetary donations can be made to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal online or at any Bendigo Bank branch.

We’ll continue to be here in the coming days, weeks and months to hear any of your concerns about how the emergency response is unfolding and to advocate for the sector. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch at vcoss@vcoss.org.au.

Stay up-to-date

The latest information about current emergencies can be found at VicEmergency and ABC. Information about relief and recovery centres is also available at VicEmergency.

Air quality

Check out the Environment Protection Authority Victoria guide to protecting your health when it is smoky outside.

You can check current air quality around Victoria at EPA Airwatch.

Government response

The Victorian Government has established Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV), a new permanent and dedicated agency that will coordinate all bushfire recovery activity. BRV will work closely with bushfire-impacted communities in the development and delivery of local recovery projects. BRV will also advise the Victorian Government on the coordination of recovery efforts and the development of an overarching plan for the recovery of communities across the state.

Further updates regarding the work of Bushfire Recovery Victoria will be available at vic.gov.au/brv.

Led by DHHS, the social relief and recovery efforts currently underway include:

  • Housing and accommodation – working with local councils to assist people displaced by the emergency to access temporary accommodation and return to permanent housing as soon as possible.
  • Individual and household financial assistance – providing grants and payments to assist households to minimise the financial impact of the emergency
  • Mental health support – psychological first aid provided by Australian Red Cross and VCC as well as information about available grief, bereavement and trauma services.
  • Public health – including water and air safety
  • Personal and financial counselling – through the recently established Case Support Program.

The Victorian Bushfires Case Support program is available for people in fire-affected areas in Gippsland and North East Victoria and people who may have been impacted by the bushfires in these areas but live in other parts of Victoria. Case Support offers a single point of contact for people to link them directly with vital support including:

  • Help accessing information
  • Assistance with completing applications for grants and other assistance
  • Psychosocial support
  • Financial counselling
  • Registering for recovery programs such as clean up grants
  • Culturally appropriate service to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians

For Case Support intake, please phone 1 800 560 760.

Planning is underway for further recovery measures including:

  • Regional planning
  • Community hubs
  • Community mobile hubs
  • Community engagement officers
  • Grants management
  • Psychosocial recovery

Financial advice

For anyone needing financial assistance and advice, financial counsellors provide a professional service. They are regulated by Federal legislation and employed by not-for-profit community organisations to provide information, advice and advocacy support free of charge, assisting people in dealing with life situations involving debt and hardship, dealing with creditors and stabilising finances. The National Debt Helpline is staffed by financial counsellors and can be contacted on 1800 007 007.

Further, rural financial counsellors work with farmers, offering free and independent financial support to primary producers and non-agriculture related small businesses. The Rural Financial Counselling Service can be contacted on 1300 735 578.

People can also access information about financial assistance from the Victorian and Australian Government, and Australian Red Cross emergency grants.

Australians who have been impacted by bushfires in declared regions can claim disaster payments through Services Australia (Centrelink).

To find out more about how to apply for an emergency payment in Victoria visit the Australian Governments Victorian Bushfires webpage. You can also call 180 22 66.

Insurance

Information about insurance is available through:

Legal advice

Anyone needing legal advice should contact Disaster Legal Help Victoria on 1800 113 432. Disaster Legal Help provides free legal advice, assistance and referrals to Victorians affected by a disaster. Call 1800 113 432 or head to: http://disasterlegalhelp.org.au

The Australian Government Disaster Assist website provides information on recovery payments.

Accommodation

The Helping Homes website shows people across the country who are opening up their homes to those who need somewhere to stay http://helpinghomes.com.au

Hosts offering accessible accommodation for people who have had to relocate due to bushfires can be found at:

Children and young people

Support for children and young people is available through:

NDIS participants

Every Australian Counts bringing together all of the information they have as it comes out for people with disability and families affected by the bushfires.

You can access this information here https://bit.ly/2ZVEK37

Accessible information (sourced from YACVic)

 

Health and wellbeing

There is information about health and wellbeing in Community factsheets – Bushfires and the Recovery Hour, Life after Disasters and Emergencies podcast.

Making donations

Donations can be made through the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Disaster Relief and Recovery, Community Enterprise Foundation Bushfire Disaster Appeal. Many relief agencies ask people not to donate material goods.

Community organisations

For community organisations on the front line the attached resource, On the frontline in emergencies, is a practical emergency response, relief and recovery guide.