Winter 2020

Our members walking alongside bushfire affected communities

As at 23 July 2020.
The Vinnies Bushfire Appeal was first opened in response to catastrophic bushfires in northern NSW in late September 2019, and later expanded to support the many communities affected by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019- 20 across Queensland, NSW, the ACT, Victoria and South Australia.

Thanks to generous donations from members of the public, businesses and philanthropists, $22.9 million was raised to support people who suffered devastating damage to their homes and livelihoods from the fires.

Funds raised in NSW via the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal have been incredibly important in supporting people and communities impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. So far we have distributed $5.4 million of the $8.6 million allocated to NSW from the bushfire funds (this does not include parts of the far NSW South Coast which fall under our Canberra-Goulburn team’s management).

In addition, $1.2 million has been committed for distribution under the upcoming Community Grants program which will help communities rebuild, focusing on projects with community-wide benefit. This brings the total funds spent and committed to $6.6 million.

Our volunteer members are embedded in communities right across the state and were often the first to render assistance to their neighbours in the immediate aftermath of the bushfires.

We have also worked in partnership with the Commonwealth Government to support people in designated bushfire-affected postcodes, with just over $3 million in government Emergency Relief Fund payments distributed by Vinnies in NSW. Payments are still available for eligible households. If you are in NSW, visit www.vinnies.org.au/erf for more information. For other states, please call us on 13 18 12.

As we move from immediate disaster relief into the recovery and rebuilding phase, your donations will be used to help individuals deal with the long-term impact of the fires. The remaining funds in NSW will be used to help communities rebuild, focusing on projects with communitywide benefit such as restoring community halls and other shared facilities. You will also be helping farms and local businesses get back on their feet. Two key announcements targeting long-term community development will be made on 27 July.

Canberra-Goulburn

In Canberra/Goulburn (lower South Coast NSW, Snowy-Monaro and Queanbeyan-Palerang) the Society is reaching out to those impacted by the fires who have not yet sought our assistance. Emergency relief funds from the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal are continuing to be distributed to those who have lost homes (up to $3000) as is Commonwealth Emergency Relief funding (of up to $1,000). There is an additional focus on community recovery and a first round of grants directed to community recovery is launching in August 2020.

Victoria

In Victoria, there has been a strong focus on engaging with local communities to understand their recovery needs. This included a team of members travelling to Mallacoota and Corryong on a weekly basis, as soon as the roads opened up, which was some 6 weeks after the bushfires ended. To date, we have assisted over 600 individual and families. During Covid-19 travel to the bush fire effects areas is not possible so we have transferred back to a phone and online system to continue to assist supporting local people. A focus has also been made to support students from kindergarten through to tertiary with their ongoing education. A generous donation from the Victorian Jewish Community is assisting with these grants. One early example of the important assistance that has been provided came as a result of close community discussions where the Society was able to support the engagement of counselling support for students by funding a Trauma Recovery Practitioner at the local school for 12 months to work with students who have been impacted by the trauma of the bushfires. Two additional significant education projects are also in the planning and about to be launched.

In northern Victoria and across Gippsland our volunteers continue to be active across their community, responding to calls for assistance and providing food hampers, bills, education costs and more.

South Australia

In South Australia, all of our donated bushfire funds have been distributed. Only Commonwealth Emergency Relief funding (of up to $1,000 cash) is available and a further amount of up to $1,000 is available for bill payment. The types of bills covered include:

  • Electricity/gas/water bills • Council rates
  • Clean up property (cutting of trees, movement of trees)
  • Replacement of fire prevention for property (sprinklers etc.)
  • Fencing replacement costs
  • Revegetation costs
  • Generators
  • Solar panels
  • Replacement of household items lost (where this no insurance/ insurance doesn’t cover all items/ or applicant is underinsured)
  • Irrigation systems
  • Water tanks
  • Cleaning water connections to the house (no mains water)
  • Beehives
  • Stock feed
  • Wood for fires
  • Food – credit at supermarkets, butchers
  • Food vouchers – Drake, IGA, Foodland
  • Rent payments
  • Mortgage payments
  • Car repairs/servicing/new tyres – goods vehicles required in all fire-affected areas due to distances travelled – Yorketown, Adelaide Hills and KI
  • Car registration or driver’s licence
  • Medical expenses (essential only)
  • School Fees for SA government schools.

Queensland

In Queensland, the impact of the fires has been primarily to grazing land and agricultural infrastructure, such as fences and sheds. Few claims have been received for assistance to repair dwellings. Vinnies volunteers have revisited many families that were fire affected in October and November 2019, and who did not seek help at that time. This increased the number of claims processed in May and June 2020. The recent fire assistance has been mainly from the Yeppoon area (Livingstone LGA), with some claims from the Scenic Rim local government area.

♦ Rose Beynon is National Director Policy and Research, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council and Bushfire Liaison Officer

Your generous donations have provided:

  • emergency financial assistance including rent and mortgage payments, car repairs and registration, medical expenses.
  • food, clothing and household items.
  • crisis accommodation when homes were destroyed or damaged or when people were evacuated, and
  • other financial and emotional support to help get people back on their feet. 
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