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2019-20 bushfires support

Were you impacted by the 2019-20 'Black Summer' bushfires?

Learn about and access support relevant to your situation at Recovery Connect and Disaster Assist.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is supporting families and communities across Australia on their disaster recovery journey.

NEMA also delivers programs supporting medium to long-term recovery for communities that will enhance and strengthen their resilience that will lessen the impact of future disasters.

The information provided below shows some of the help available to people and communities affected by the Black Summer bushfires.

‘Black Summer’ has come to describe the intense and widespread fires that burned across much of Australia during 2019–20.

Never before has our nation experienced such fierce firefighting conditions across so many communities over such a sustained period.

Support for families and individuals

Help is available to families and individuals recovering from the 2019-20 bushfires.

We know people may be under pressure from single or multiple events, including bushfires, flood and drought.

For details on mental health support, visit the Agency's mental health support page. You can also call Lifeline on 13 HELP (call 13 43 57) for immediate help.

I want to talk about my situation

Recovery Support Officers

The Agency's Recovery Support Officers work closely on the ground with other government agencies, charities and other groups to help people impacted by natural disasters and other hardships.

Contact us

You can contact us directly. 

I need financial assistance

Assistance with tax

Support is may be available to taxpayers in bushfire-affected areas, solutions may vary based on your individual circumstances. 

Call the ATO on 1800 806 218.

Advance payments for income support or Family Tax Benefit Part A

If you get an income support payment or Family Tax Benefit Part A, you may be eligible for an advance payment.

Talk to staff about an advance payment at a service centre.

Support during financial hardship

If you are experiencing financial hardship, free financial counselling support is available.

The Rural Financial Counselling Service helps people to improve their financial situation in response to national disasters and drought. Check your nearest Rural Financial Counselling Service office by calling 1800 686 175.

The Small Business Financial Support Line 1800 413 828 is staffed by specialist financial counsellors.

They can give advice on the help available in bushfire affected areas Call the free National Debt Helpline on call 1800 007 007 (Monday to Friday 9:30am-4:30pm).

Redeeming damaged banknotes

Banknotes damaged in the bushfires may be redeemed through the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank will determine the value of the damaged banknotes and reimburse you the assessed amount.

Submit a damaged banknote claim through the Reserve Bank website.

Additional Child Care Subsidy Temporary Financial Hardship

This is short-term help for families who use child care and are experiencing significant financial hardship.

Visit the Services Australia website and search for ‘additional child care subsidy temporary financial hardship’.

I am a person with disability who was affected by the bushfires

Support for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants

If you are an NDIS participant affected by the bushfires contact the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Visit the NDIS website for more information.

Disability advocacy

The National Disability Advocacy Program provides people with disability with effective disability advocacy that promotes, protects and ensures their human rights, which can be of heightened concern during times of crisis.

Visit the Department of Social Services Disability Advocacy Finder tool.

I have lost important documents in the 2019-20 bushfires

Lost or destroyed passports or citizenship certificates

If you are an Australian and your passport was lost or damaged in a natural disaster, you might be able to get it replaced free.

Call the Australian Passport Information Service on 131 232 if your passport was lost or damaged. You can find more information on the Australian Passport Office website.

If you hold a citizenship certificate, you can apply for a replacement through the Department of Home Affairs website.

Lost Medicare card

If you have lost or damaged your Medicare card, there are a number of ways to order a replacement card. You can order a replacement card:

Up to 100 hours of care is also available.

Support for parents and carers of children who can’t go to a local state school

If your child cannot go to a local government school because of geographical isolation, disability or special needs, you may be able to access the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme.

Visit the Services Australia website ‘Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme’ page

I am a parent or carer

Higher education support

Current students and university applicants, who have been affected by the 2019-20 bushfires, may be able to get help from their education provider or Study Assist.

Contact details can be found on the Study Assist website.

I am experiencing domestic violence

Support services are available.

Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

My property was damaged during or destroyed

Property clean-up

Registrations in New South Wales remain open. Registrations in Victoria and South Australia have closed.

The Australian Government is working with the New South Wales, Victorian, and South Australian Governments to share the cost of bushfire debris clean-up from the 2019-20 bushfires.

Call Services Australia to discuss your situation on 180 22 66

I want support with drug or alcohol problems

Additional funding has been provided to support drug and alcohol services moving online.

Call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 or visit the Australian Government’s Drug Help website.

 
You can also visit Reach Out to access support.

Other support

Charity support

A range of bushfire recovery support is available through charities, not-for-profit and volunteer organisation.

BlazeAid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and flood.

Visit the Department of Social Service’s Grants Service Directory for a full list of Commonwealth-funded emergency relief services to find services in your region.

To receive emergency relief, you can call:

Salvation Army Disasters Assistance team on 1300 662 217 Anglicare on 1300 111 378 St Vincent de Paul bushfire assistance team on 13 18 12

Visit your state/territory service agency for information on support that is available.

Support for small businesses

Help is available to small business owners and not-for profits recovering from the 2019-20 bushfires

NEMA understands that people may be under pressure from single or multiple events, including bushfires, flood and drought.

For details on mental health support, visit the Agency's mental health support page. Or call Lifeline’s dedicated bushfire recovery line on 13 HELP 13 43 57 for immediate help.

If your small business is also a primary producer business, please also read about support for primary producers below.

I need financial advice

Regional Small Business Support Program

Provides free and confidential financial counselling through the Rural Financial Counselling Service for eligible small regional businesses affected by drought, bushfire or COVID-19.

Find out more about the Regional Small Business Support Program.

I need business advice

Bushfire - Entrepreneurs’ Program:  Strengthening Business

A free tailored advisory service is available for small and medium businesses affected by the bushfires.

It is available in certain Local Government Areas most affected by the fires.

Call  13 28 46 or visit business.gov.au (search for ‘strengthening business’)

The National Indigenous Australians Agency

The National Indigenous Australians Agency is able to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their communities, organisations, and businesses with access to supports and services.

Contact details for support services are available through the National Indigenous Australians Agency’s Support to bushfire affected communities’ page

I need money to keep my business or not-for-profit going

$10,000 grants for small business

Applications have closed in all states.

The $10,000 grant was available to small businesses in Local Government Areas affected by the 2019-20 bushfires.

The grant was for businesses whose revenue income dropped by 40 per cent or more because of the bushfires.

Recovery grants of up to $50,000

Applications have closed in all states.

The grant was for small businesses and not-for-profit organisations in 2019-20 bushfire-affected Local Government Areas (areas declared Category C of the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements).

This grant was to help with direct impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires, including damage from fire or smoke.

Concessional loans of up to $500,000

Applications have closed in all states.

These loans were for small businesses, not-for-profits and primary producers in areas affected by the 2019-20 bushfires (areas declared Category B).

This low cost finance was available to small businesses to help them get back on their feet.

There are no repayments or interest for the first two years, then a concessional rate.

I want to help wildlife and habitat recovery from the bushfires

Wildlife and Habitat Recovery Program

Applications have now closed.

Grants from $20,000 to $200,000 were available to support the immediate survival and long-term recovery and resilience for fire-affected Australian animals, plants, ecological communities and other natural assets and their cultural values for Indigenous Australians.

Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat Community Grants Program

Applications have now closed.  

Grants from $5,000 to $150,000 were available for community organisations, conservation groups, Indigenous organisations and local governments for wildlife and habitat recovery projects.

Indigenous Fire and Land Management Workshops Program

My business is in financial distress

ATO assistance

If you are experiencing difficulties with your tax affairs following the 2019-20 bushfires, the ATO can work with you to get things back on track.

If you are an individual, business owner or primary producer and are having difficulty meeting your tax and super obligations, get in touch.

Support for primary producers

Help is available to primary producers recovering from the 2019-20 bushfires

The Agency understands people may be under pressure from single or multiple events, including bushfires, flood and drought.

For details on mental health support, visit our mental health support page. Or call Lifeline’s dedicated bushfire recovery line on 13 HELP 13 43 57 for immediate help.

If your primary producer business is also a small business, please also read about support for small businesses above.

I need financial advice

Rural Financial Counselling Service

The Australian Government has funded the Rural Financial Counselling Service program for rural communities for over thirty years. 

This free service helps primary producers assess their options for recovery, outline the options available for support, and help people apply for grants and other assistance.

For more information, visit the Rural Financial Counselling Service section on our website or email rfcs@recovery.gov.au.

I need money to keep my primary production business going

Recovery grants of up to $75,000 for primary producers

Applications have now closed.

Recovery grants of up to $75,000 were available under the Emergency Bushfire Response in Primary Industries Grants Program. The Australian and state governments share the cost of this program.

These grants could be used for things like fodder and water, sheds, fencing, and agricultural equipment. They could also be used for the costs of cleaning up, salvaging and harvesting crops damaged by fire, smoke, ash and soot.

Wine grape smoke taint grants

Applications have now closed.

Wine grape producers could get up to $10,000 to support recovery and rebuild. This support was for businesses impacted by bushfire smoke in regions that were not eligible for bushfire recovery primary producer grants.

You could use the grants for things like meeting business operating costs, such as utilities, salaries, and rent.

Businesses that had already received a $10,000 Small Business Bushfire Support Grant could not apply for a Wine Grape Smoke Taint Grant.

Recovery grants for apple growers

Applications have now closed.

Grants of up to $120,000 per hectare were available for eligible applicants. This support was to help businesses re‑establish apple orchards that had been damaged or destroyed.

Grants could be used to repair or replace:

stock damaged irrigation infrastructure poles trellises poles netting

I need a loan

Concessional Loans of up to $500,000

Applications have now closed.

These loans were for small businesses, not-for-profits and primary producers in areas affected by the 2019-20 bushfires (areas declared Category B).

This low cost finance was to help you get back on your feet.

There are no repayments or interest for the first two years, then a concessional rate.

For more information:

In New South Wales, visit the Rural Assistance Authority. In Victoria, visit Rural Finance.

Support for timber-processing facilities

Applications have now closed.

The $40 million fund is supporting timber-processing facilities that were physically damaged, or were subject to a decline in timber supply, as a result of the 2019-20 bushfires.

The fund created public-private partnerships and grants of up to $5 million were available, co-matched by industry applicants. Grants required a dollar-for-dollar financial co-contribution from industry.

Recipients of the grant were announced on 22 December 2020. View the media release here.

For more information, visit the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment's Bushfire Supporting Forestry Page.

Funding for storage facilities for fire-affected timber

Applications have now closed.

$10 million in funding was available, provided through the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund, to establish storage facilities for fire-affected timber including processed timber products, logs, and other forestry products.

The fund provides extra certainty for mills and helps businesses to plan their long-term recovery.

This assistance is being delivered through partnerships with the New South Wales and Victorian governments.

For information on this fund in each state:

In New South Wales, visit the Bushfire Industry Recovery Package (NSW Government) website In Victoria, visit the Bushfire Recovery Timber Storage Grants - Regional Development Victoria website trees (including apple orchards).

Support for local councils

Local Government Areas Grants Programs

To help the most severely bushfire-impacted Local Government Areas (LGAs) to quickly rebuild vital infrastructure and strengthen community resilience following the 2019-20 bushfires, the Australian Government provided payments to local councils under the LGA Grants Program.

Payments were delivered in two rounds:

Round 1 – An initial $1 million payment was provided to LGAs who were Category C activated under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements as at 9 January 2020.   Round 2 - Payments were made to any LGA that was activated for Category C assistance as at 24 January 2020, based on a five-tiered impact model.

If you have any questions about this program, or any others, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Accountability is important in the administration of any grants program. State Governments are the administrators of this program and have accountabilities for the program as an activity under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements. Councils are required to keep appropriate records of expenditure for Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangement audit and assurance purposes.

Eligible councils developed a Program of Works after receiving funding, and have all reported back to the Commonwealth on progress. The reporting to the Commonwealth was coordinated via the States.

Types of projects undertaken by councils included:

Infrastructure projects, including repairs and upgrades to community facilities, evacuation centres, roads and bridges; Future disaster preparedness and community resilience building projects; Hazard reduction activities, including clean-up of dangerous trees and vegetation; Employment of recovery officers, and community, health and wellbeing activities or support for community groups; and Hosting of events, and upgrades to facilities to promote economic activity, bring communities together or attract visitors.

Noting all communities are also impacted by COVID-19, activities undertaken for bushfire recovery, including economic recovery activities may also be beneficial for a community’s COVID-19 recovery.

This model took into account available metrics at the time, and equally weighted five impact metrics including the population of the areas; the proportion of the population in receipt of Disaster Recovery payments; the proportion of the LGA burnt; the number of prior disaster events; and the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage of the LGA.

The full list of councils and total allocations (PDF 48KB)

How it worked

This assistance supplemented the range of other support measures provided by the Australian Government and States and Territories. 

Funding for the LGA Grants Program was provided by the Australian Government to State Governments to administer and distribute via the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

Payments to States were Category D payments under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements. 

Local councils know their communities best and can direct funding to where it is needed most. They may use their grants on projects and activities they deem essential for community recovery, such as, but not limited to:

Rebuilding damaged or destroyed council assets such as key local roads, bridges, and community facilities; Employing additional local staff to take on specialist recovery or planning roles to help coordinate and plan the rebuilding effort; Hosting new public activities and events to bring communities together and attract visitors back to affected regions; Activities and measures to support local economic recovery; and Immediate maintenance and repairs to relief and evacuation centres.