Australia’s unprecedented bushfires have claimed 28 lives, destroyed more than 2000 homes and burnt through more than ten million hectares of land.
The federal government has set up a $2 billion national bushfire recovery fund to coordinate the national rebuilding response, in addition to providing one-off and ongoing disaster relief payments for affected individuals and businesses.
And state governments have also earmarked substantial funds for the recovery effort, through the jointly funded Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
Here’s a list of the government assistance available to affected individuals.
(There’s also government assistance for farmers and businesses, compensation of up to $300 a day for volunteer firefighters, and emergency grants from the Red Cross and several other charities.)
Federal Government Assistance
The federal government is providing two forms of financial assistance to individuals severely affected by this season’s bushfires.
The first is a one-off payment of $400 for children and $1000 for adults.
Known as the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment, it is available for Australian residents who:
- have been seriously injured
- have lost an immediate family member in the fires
- have lost their homes or sustained major damage to their property
- are the principal carer of a dependent child who has experienced any of the above.
Australian Council of Social Service CEO Cassandra Goldie described the payments as “seriously inadequate” and called on the prime minister to raise the allowance to $3000 for adults and $1000 for children.
Individuals can claim the one-off payment by calling CentreLink on 180 22 66. Only individuals in local government areas (LGAs) listed on Centrelink’s website can make a claim. Lists of LGAs can be found here.
The second form of federal assistance is an ongoing, tax-exempt allowance for individuals who have lost income as a direct result of the bushfires.
Australian residents who work in an affected LGA and earn less than the income threshold can claim the allowance for a maximum of 13 weeks.
The maximum income threshold is $1060.67 a fortnight for singles aged 22 and over and $970.17 a fortnight for each member of a couple. (A full list of income thresholds can be found here.)
While the amount paid varies according to an individual’s income, the maximum payment rate is equivalent to Newstart.
The NSW government has published a list of available support on this Facebook page, which it regularly updates.
It includes disaster relief grants for uninsured, low-income earners “whose homes and essential household contents have been damaged or destroyed”, and motorcycle stamp duty relief for motorists who have written off their cars.
Low-income earners who wish to make a claim for a disaster relief grant should call the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444.
People who have lost personal documents such as licences, passports and certificates can also apply for free replacements on 13 77 88.
And individuals who need emergency short-term housing should ring the Housing Contact Centre on 1800 422 322.
The QLD government has provided emergency housing for those in need and worked with charities such as Givit, Lifeline and the Salvation Army to help coordinate donations.
In partnership with the Commonwealth Government, it has also made available the following assistance:
- an emergency hardship grant for essential goods or temporary accommodation, of up to $180 per individual and up to $900 for families of five or move
- a one-off payment that covers the loss of one or more essential services such as electricity or gas – up to $150 for individuals and $750 for families of five or more
- means-tested grants to replace home contents for uninsured, low-income Australians – up to $1765 for single adults and up to $5300 for couples or families
- means-tested grants to repair the homes of uninsured, low-income Australians – up to $10,995 for single adults and up to $14,685 for couples or families
- means-tested grants for uninsured, low-income Australians who need to reconnect essential services – up to $200 towards a safety inspection for each essential service needing re-connection, as well as up to $4200 for repair work needed to facilitate re-connections
Residents can apply for grants online at communityrecovery.qld.gov.au, or call the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349.
Those affected by the bushfires in Cudlee Creek and on Kangaroo Island can apply for assistance through the state government’s appeal fund.
Besides public donations, there’s also a re-establishment grant of up to $10,000 for eligible, uninsured residents who have had their principal place of residence damaged by the bushfires, and a one-off emergency hardship grant of up to $700 per family and $280 per adult.
Like most other states, SA also offers grants of up to $10,000 for affected businesses and grants of up to $15,000 for eligible primary producers.
The Tasmanian government is offering the following assistance to Break O’Day residents affected by the Fingal fire:
- support for people suffering personal hardship to help with their immediate emergency needs ($250 per adult and $125 per child up to $1000 per family)
- grants for temporary living expenses if the principal place of residence is unfit to live in or is inaccessible (up to $9400 available over six months)
- grants for the replacement of essential household items (up to $9400 available depending on the size of the affected property)
- grants for repair works that restore the principal place of residence to a basic, minimum standard (up to $9,400)
Individuals who need assistance should call Housing Tasmania on 1300 665 663.
Emergency financial assistance is available to eligible individuals in Ararat, Alpine, Ballarat, East Gippsland, Glenelg, Golden Plains, Indigo, Mansfield, Northern Grampians, Pyrenees, Southern Grampians, Towong, Wangaratta, Wellington and Wodonga council areas.
- means-tested hardship payments of up to $560 per adult and $280 per child (up to a maximum of $1960 per eligible household), for emergency food, accommodation, clothing, medication and personal items. The money is provided via a prepaid debit card. Individuals can pick one up at a relief centre or call 1800 961 054 during working hours for more information.
- emergency re-establishment grants of up to $42,250 for clean-up, emergency accommodation, repairs and rebuilding, for people without home and contents insurance.
The Victorian Government will also replace lost documentation free of charge, waive land tax for eligible businesses, families and individuals, and provide up to $55,000 in stamp duty relief.
Individuals who need to replace their documents should call the Department of Justice and Community Safety on 03 5215 8500.