As many of us prepare to spend time with our friends and family this holiday season, some of us will be affected by disasters, especially during this unprecedented bushfire crisis. Others are working out how we can contribute. Either way, I hope the information below is helpful.
If you or your organisation is directly affected..
If you or any of the people in your communities are affected by the bushfires, there are disaster recovery payments available, which you can access by contacting 1802266.
To reiterate the previous assurance from the Minister for Family and Social Services, Anne Ruston:
Funded service providers and sanctions
“The Department is in frequent communication with funded service providers who are in fire-affected regions and is supporting them to respond flexibly to the local needs and conditions. We are conscious that providers may need to adjust their delivery of services and no-one will be subject to sanctions where they have operated in good faith in responding to crisis in fire affected communities. Providers all have access to a grant agreement manager in my Department to discuss the terms of their agreements, and I encourage them to do so if they are concerned about the scope of their agreement.
Meeting income support obligations
“The Department of Employment is taking action to ensure job seekers living in or near the fire regions are not unfairly impacted by not being able to access income support. Generally, job seekers in the impacted regions will not be required to report job search. Employment services providers are encouraged to take circumstances into account and be flexible in their engagement with job seekers over this period.”
If you’d like to help..
Our thoughts are of course with those who are affected by this bushfire crisis, or on the ground responding to the fires. The RFS and the community organisations responding to the bushfires are doing a fantastic job, and have been at this for months. I know many of you will be thinking about them, and how you can contribute at this time, so I spoke with the Red Cross yesterday who have the following advice on what we can all do to contribute.
Make a donation
This bushfire season has stretched many emergency response agencies to the limit. Your donation can support their work and enable them to offer recovery assistance to people and communities.
Donating goods or clothing?
This is only a good idea if you are certain the goods are needed, if there’s an agency that is happy to receive and distribute them, and if the cost of storage and distribution doesn’t exceed the value of the goods. Many relief agencies ask people not to donate goods, as this puts further strain on their volunteer workforce to distribute, and goods often end up in landfill. A good alternative is to take quality unwanted clothes or whitegoods to a charity shop, where they can be on-sold to raise funds.
Get prepared for disasters
One of the most useful things you can do is get prepared for disasters, and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Everyone needs an emergency plan, no matter where they live. A good plan helps you stay calm, get information quickly, look after others, and protect what you most value.
A simple four-step plan is available at redcross.org.au/prepare and you can also download the Get Prepared app, which puts your plan at your fingertips always. You’ll also find information tailored to people with a disability, children, older adults, people with chronic illness, and people with hearing impairments.
Learn first aid
Whether it’s heatstroke, an accident or a burn, knowing first aid can make a huge difference in an emergency. Red Cross and other agencies offer first aid and CPR courses and kits.
Learn psychological first aid
Just as first aid is the help you give someone who is sick or injured, psychological first aid is about supporting someone who is suffering emotionally from a traumatic event. It helps people feel safe, connected, and able to help themselves.
Psychological First Aid: An Australian Manual is a useful guide for working with clients in disaster-affected areas.
Emergency service volunteers have been working overtime and the pool of volunteers is shrinking. You might need some training before you can help in an active emergency situation, but sign up now and get the paperwork done, so you can be ready in the future.
Support people who have experienced an emergency
Whether it’s living with extreme heat and smoke, facing the threat of a fire, being forced to evacuate, or worst of all losing homes and loved ones, many thousands of Australians are feeling the strain of the bushfire season.
If someone you know is affected, you can help by offering a listening ear, helping with practical chores, and giving them space and patience as they process what has happened.
Visit redcross.org.au/recover for resources to help with coping with crisis, cleaning up, returning home after an evacuation, and talking to children after an emergency.
Look out for people in heatwaves
More people die in heatwaves than any other natural disaster in Australia. People aged over 65, pregnant women, children and people experiencing anxiety and stress can be most at risk.
As the temperature rises, check on those who may be vulnerable. A good guide on how to help is available at redcross.org.au/heatwave.
These are testing times. I hope you manage to have a good break, and look forward to working with you all in the new year.
A message from ACOSS CEO,
Dr. Cassandra Goldie