21 July 2020

New bushfire relief funding now available

| Communities@Work
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New shoots emerging from burnt tree.

A new allocation of government bushfire recovery relief funding is now available. Photo: Supplied.

A new allocation of government bushfire recovery relief funding for local communities is now available to help people still experiencing hardship from the devastating 2019-2020 summer bushfires.

Communities@Work, Canberra’s largest not-for-profit community organisation, has recently been allocated funding from the Australian Government’s $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund to support people who are still under financial strain following the bushfire crisis. The organisation is keen to distribute these funds as quickly as possible to help people with their recovery, says its director of social programs, Ruth Zanker.

“This new money is available to people who are currently living in the ACT, been affected by bushfires in the ACT, NSW or Victoria, and are experiencing financial hardship,” she explains. “You might have moved here because of the fires or were temporarily displaced and are currently living with family or friends.

“Please reach out if you need support. We want to help you with your recovery journey and make life easier for you.”

Ruth points out that help means different things to different people.

“We’re not simply giving out a financial grant,” she says. “We will talk with you, look at what supports you currently have and work out where the gaps are. We’ll then create a tailored support package based on your individual needs. This might include offering some of the services we provide, as well as linking you to external services and information points.

“Even if you’re unsure whether you’re eligible, get in touch with us. Every little bit of aid helps.”

Supporting people in need is a key focus for Communities@Work. It assists more than 20,000 vulnerable people each year with a range of essential community services such as food, clothing, temporary housing accommodation and crisis support – and now bushfire relief.

The 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season was one of the worst in Australian history. Between October 2019 and February 2020, bushfires ravaged many parts of Australia, burning an estimated 18.6 million hectares, shrouding cities in toxic smoke, destroying more than 5900 buildings and killing 34 people.

Volunteers outside the Dickson College bushfire relief centre.

Social Recovery network members and volunteers, including those from Communities@Work, are ready to help people at the Dickson College bushfire relief centre. Photo: Supplied.

Eighteen months before the bushfires, the ACT Government set up the Social Recovery network, partnering with local community organisations Communities@Work, Vinnies, Red Cross, Salvos and Anglicare, to develop plans for the set up and running of bushfire evacuation and relief centres should they ever be needed.

That planning and foresight allowed the network and its members to quickly and efficiently set up bushfire relief and recovery centres at Dickson College and Erindale College in January this year. The centres played a vital role in supporting people fleeing fires along the NSW South Coast or suffering from the smoke pollution shrouding Canberra.

During 16 days in January, the Dickson relief centre helped 426 people with more than $31,000 worth of assistance, including accommodation, hot meals, food and clothing.

As well as supporting the relief centres, Communities@Work worked alongside numerous individuals and community organisations in the bushfire relief effort. Roles included helping coordinate donations for community group Slabs for Heroes, providing food and other support through its own community pantries, and working with local councils to support Braidwood firefighters.

Children at Communities@Work's out-of-school-hours care services with bushfire appeal fundraiser signs.

Children at Communities@Work’s out-of-school-hours care services set up fundraisers to support the bushfire appeal. Photo: Supplied.

“It was so heartwarming to see how our community pulled together in times of need,” says Ruth. “It made you proud to be a Canberran. Communities@Work has a long and proud history of supporting people in need. That philosophy and value is embedded in our purpose, our programs and our services, and is at the heart of everything we do.”

To register for Communities@Work’s new bushfire relief support, fill out an online form on its website, or call 02 6293 6500. To find out more about the Federal Government’s assistance options, visit bushfirerecovery.gov.au.

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