How to get help
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 calling 1802266. You can find out more information by going to https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/help-emergency/bushfires
Centrelink payments available for people affected by the bushfires
- Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment – a one-off lump sum payment for people affected by the bushfires from August 2019 through to January 2020.
- Disaster Recovery Allowance – an income support payment for up to 13 weeks for people who have lost income because of they were affected by the bushfires
For details about eligibility and payment rates, please go to: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/help-emergency/bushfires and click on your relevant state.
The National Social Security Rights Network has published this fact sheet about disaster recovery assistance for more detailed information.
If you are having trouble accessing disaster payments (ie. your claim has been denied) please contact National Social Security Rights Network and find state and territory contacts for help.
Another option is to access free legal services established through Legal Aid NSW (Disaster Response Legal Service NSW 1800 801 529) and Victoria Legal Aid (Disaster Legal Help Victoria on 1800 113 432).
Relevant state government financial assistance
For information about NSW Government financial assistance, please see here: https://www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/Pages/for-the-community/disaster-assistance/disaster-assistance-for-individuals.aspx (includes assistance for people who do not have insurance).
For information about Victorian Government financial assistance, please see here: http://emergency.vic.gov.au/relief-and-recovery/924 (There is up to $42,250 per household to help people re-establish if they have lost their home and do not have insurance).
For information about SA Government financial assistance, please see here: https://dhs.sa.gov.au/services/disaster-recovery/cudleecreek (There is up to $10,000 for residents without insurance to re-establish their homes).
Red Cross Grants
If you’ve lost your home in a bushfire since July 2019 (including if you’re a tenant), you can apply for an emergency grant of $5,000 from the Red Cross, here https://www.redcross.org.au/get-help/emergencies/recovering-from-emergencies/direct-assistance-contact
Accessing services and support
Ask Izzy has introduced a bushfire support category to help anyone affected by the #bushfires find services and information in their area. Visit www.askizzy.org.au to find links to emergency info, recovery support, food services, counselling and more.
Financial relief for people affected by the bushfires
The Consumer Action Law Centre has published some new information about where to get financial assistance for loan payments, energy bills, insurance premiums– https://consumeraction.org.au/20200109-bushfire-financial-relief/
You can also get confidential help from a financial counsellor by calling the National Debt Hotline – 1800 007 007 – or going to www.ndh.org.au
Legal help for people affected by bushfires
In NSW – you can get legal assistance on issues related to insurance, credit and debt, social security, housing and tenancy, employment, replacing documents or domestic violence by contacting the Disaster Response Legal Service NSW helpline on 1800 801 529.
In Victoria – you can get legal assistance from Disaster Legal Help Victoria – a joint initiative of Victoria Legal Aid, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Bar and Justice Connect. DLHV provides free legal help to Victorians affected by disasters, through the DLHV website (https://www.disasterlegalhelp.org.au/), phone line (1800 113 432) and in-person attendance in affected communities where needed.
Mutual obligation requirements and Centrelink debt recovery
People in fire-affected areas do not need to undertake mutual obligation requirements until 6 March 2020. There is also a pause to debt recovery in these areas over this time.
- This is the current list of local government areas that are part of the voluntary mutual obligation arrangements till 6 March. Please note that we will do our best to update this list as soon as we receive new information, but there may be a delay.
- The ‘national contingency arrangement’ that was in place till 19 January 2020 has ended. People outside the local government areas listed above may need to re-engage with their mutual obligation requirements.
Speak to your employment service provider about this if you need further information.
How you can help
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. Some of the key agencies that are working to deliver support to communities at this time include:
The Salvation Army
To donate to the Salvation Army disaster appeal, you can call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58), donate at any Woolworths checkout, or donate online here.
Australian Red Cross
The Australian Red Cross have launched a joint disaster appeal with the ABC to support the communities affected by fires. You can donate here.
St Vincent De Paul Society
You can make a donation to St Vincent De Paul at any Vinnies store, or online here
You can support Foodbank by donating online here.
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.
Bushfires and scams
There are currently a wide range of appeals raising funds for people and animals affected by the bushfires. Unfortunately, some of these are scams. You can get more information about scams from the ACCC at https://www.accc.gov.au/update/bushfires-and-scams
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.
For information about fires near you and how to prepare for a bushfire, see your relevant fire service site below:
NSW Rural Fire Service: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/
Country Fire Authority Victoria: https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/home
South Australian Country Fire Service: https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/home.jsp
Emergency WA: https://www.emergency.wa.gov.au/#
ACOSS would like to acknowledge and thank Australian Red Cross for their assistance developing this resource.