Here you will find information and resources for Victorians affected by bushfires.

​Support and information about what assistance is available to Victorians affected by bushfires.

People in immediate need can visit the Vic Emergency website or call 1800 226 226 for advice on evacuation centres.

People can access a case support worker by contacting their local council, visiting one of the recovery centres or by calling 1800 560 760.

Financial assistance

Households in the local government areas of East Gippsland and Towong can now access the following emergency payments to relieve personal hardship.

 

Emergency Relief Assistance Payments

  • Emergency relief assistance is available for up to seven days after the event if you are unable to access or live in your home because of an emergency.
  • Payments of up to $560 per adult and $280 per child (up to a maximum of $1960 per eligible household) are available to help meet immediate needs, including emergency food, shelter, clothing and personal items.
  • The payments are designed to help eligible people experiencing personal and extreme financial hardship due to the fires. https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/personal-hardship-assistance-program

 

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment

  • $1000 per adult and $400 per child
  • For people who have been seriously injured, have lost their homes or whose homes have been directly damaged, or are the immediate family members of a person who has died, as a direct result of the bushfires.

https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/victorian-bushfires-december-2019-australian-government-disaster-recovery-payment

 

Disaster Recovery Allowance

  • Up to 13 weeks income support for those who have lost income as a direct result of the bushfires
  • Equivalent to Newstart or Youth Allowance

https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/victorian-bushfires-december-2019-disaster-recovery-allowance

 

Emergency Re-establishment Payments

  • Emergency re-establishment assistance is available if your principal place of residence (your home) is uninhabitable for more than seven days because of an emergency.
  • Provides up to $42,250 per eligible household experiencing financial hardship, who have been affected by fire at their primary place of residence.
  • The grants will be available for clean-up, emergency accommodation, repairs, rebuilding (a principal place of residence), and replacing some damaged contents.
  • Re-establishment assistance is available to individuals or families who do not have building (home) insurance or contents insurance.

https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/personal-hardship-assistance-program

 

Households should contact their local council, or visit a relief centre, to discuss assistance options.

Assistance is being provided through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

(Source: Vic Emergency website)

 

Red Cross Emergency Grants

Emergency grants are open across Australia to people whose primary place of residence has been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable as the result of bushfires from 1 July 2019 to 28 February 2020.

Your primary place of residence is the place you reside in on a permanent basis, whether as an owner/occupier or a tenant.

A grant of $5,000 is available per household.

Grants will be open until 30 April 2020.

https://www.redcross.org.au/get-help/emergencies/recovering-from-emergencies/direct-assistance-contact

 

No-Interest-Loan-Scheme (NILS, Good Shepherd)

Good Shepherd has developed a No Interest Loans (NILS) Bushfire Relief Policy to support people in bushfire-affected areas. New and existing clients may be eligible for larger loans with longer repayment terms. Click here to find out more.

 

NAB customers

NAB has announced a $1 million Disaster Relief Fund to help people affected by bushfires across Australia.

NAB customers who have lost homes this bushfire season can immediately access $2,000 grants to help cover costs such as temporary accommodation, food and clothing. For information on how to access the grants contact the NAB Assist team on the dedicated number 1300 683 106 (8am-8pm Monday to Friday; and 9am-1pm Saturday AEST/AEDT).

(Source: NAB website)

 

Westpac customers

Westpac Group has today announced additional support for customers and communities impacted by ongoing bushfires across Australia.

For Westpac mortgage customers who have lost their principal place of residence due to the bushfires, Westpac will pay the customer’s mortgage repayments for one year (up to $1,200 per month).

Westpac can also provide up to $2,000 in emergency cash grants for customers whose properties have been destroyed or damaged by the bushfires

(Source: Westpac website)

Other assistance

Landfill levy waiver

A landfill levy waiver will be provided to allow people to dispose of their bushfire waste without paying the landfill levy.

Bushfire waste includes the debris from homes, businesses, sheds, stock, fencing and equipment that have been damaged. The levy waiver will also make it easier for people to dispose of dead livestock.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) will work with landfill operators and councils in fire-affected areas to apply for the exemption. If residents or business owners have any questions or concerns about bushfire waste clean up and disposal they can contact EPA for further information.

 

2020 Clean-up Program

The Victoria and Commonwealth Governments will jointly provide up to $75 million for the program to demolish, remove and safely dispose of all buildings destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

Insured and uninsured property owners won’t be required to contribute to the cost of the program. The voluntary program is open to all affected property owners.

The removal of fencing, trees and vehicles may also be included where it is necessary for the safe clean-up of buildings.
Property owners are encouraged to register for the 2020 Clean-Up Program at https://www.vic.gov.au/bushfire-recovery-victoria or by phoning 1800 560 760.

 

Replacement ID documents

If bushfire has destroyed your identity documents, Births, Deaths and Marriages can replace your (Victorian) birth certificate for free. Please call 1300 369 367 for assistance.

If you’ve been affected by the fires, VicRoads will provide assistance to help with your registration and licensing, go to Bushfire relief assistance for more information. If you have an urgent enquiry please call 13 11 71.

If your passport has been lost or damaged in bushfires, you may be eligible for a free replacement. Call the Australian Passport Office on 131 232 for more information.

Financial counselling

Seek free, independent and confidential financial advice and guidance from the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or search for a financial counsellor in your local area: https://ndh.org.au/Talk-to-a-financial-counsellor/Find-a-financial-counsellor/

Small business and farmers

General information on support and assistance to primary producers affected by bushfires is available from the Agriculture Victoria website here: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/emergencies/recovery/gippsland-north-east-fires

 

Rural Financial Counselling

The Rural Financial Counselling Service is available to farmers across all fire affected areas, offering free and independent financial support to primary producers and non-agriculture related small businesses. The service can be contacted on 1300 834 775.

 

Emergency Support for Primary Producers

$75,000 Grants are now available for fire affected primary producers. You can access guidelines and application form that provide information about the program.

This program helps pay for the costs of clean-up and other emergency measures including:

  • repairing or replacing fencing and horticultural netting
  • disposing of dead stock
  • rebuilding or replacing damaged or destroyed on-farm infrastructure
  • additional labour costs and more.

The grants are available to farmers (including apiarists) directly affected by the 2019-2020 bushfire disaster events in 15 local government areas: Ararat, Alpine, Ballarat, East Gippsland, Glenelg, Golden Plains, Indigo, Mansfield, Northern Grampians, Pyrenees, Southern Grampians, Towong, Wangaratta, Wellington and Wodonga.

Applications must be submitted by 31 July 2020.

For further information, and to apply, contact Rural Finance on 1800 260 425, visit ruralfinance.com.au or email governmentservices@ruralfinance.com.au

 

Transport Support Program

Transport subsidies of up to $15,000 are now available to eligible primary producers (including apiarists) directly impacted by the Victorian Bushfires.Primary producers can claim the subsidy on eligible transport costs that directly address immediate animal welfare needs, including the transport of:

  • Emergency fodder for stock to fire-affected properties
  • Stock to agistment (including returning stock)
  • Stock to sale or slaughter
  • Emergency stock drinking water.

The support is available to bushfire affected primary producers in the local government areas of Ararat, Alpine, Ballarat, East Gippsland, Glenelg, Golden Plains, Indigo, Mansfield, Northern Grampians, Pyrenees, Southern Grampians, Towong, Wangaratta, Wellington and Wodonga.

Applications must be submitted by 31 July 2020.

For further information, visit ruralfinance.com.au.

 

Small Business Financial Support Line

The Government is establishing a support line to provide advice and support for small businesses in bushfire affected communities. The support line will provide information on the assistance that is available and access to specialist small business financial counselling services.

While the specialist Support Line is being established, businesses can visit www.business.gov.au or call 13 28 46.

Centrelink

The Department of Human Services has put in place contingency arrangements for areas affected by bushfires, or that were in danger of being affected.

This means that all mutual obligation requirements will continue to be voluntary, and job seekers will not be penalised if they fail to meet a requirement. This applies to all programs including jobactive, ParentsNext, Disability Employment Services and the Community Development Program. Job seekers will be receiving messages advising them that they are not required to attend appointments or activities.

These arrangements will be in place until 19th January.

The Prime Minister has since announced that job seekers in fire affected regions would not have mutual obligation requirements for at least two months. The Department is continuing its work to confirm the appropriate arrangements and to identify all those areas in which these arrangement will apply.

 

Bushfire recovery and Centrelink

The National Social Security Rights Network (NSSRN) has developed a guide to help people navigate Centrelink payments if they have been affected by bushfires.

Click here to download Bushfire Recovery and Centrelink.

Financial Institutions

ABA

The Australian Banking Association (ABA) has a list of phone numbers and websites for contacting the financial hardship teams at each bank:
https://www.ausbanking.org.au/policy/customers/financial-hardship/

 

AFCA

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has set up a dedicated online bushfire support hub with information about financial recovery:
https://afca.org.au/bushfiresupport/

 

ANZ Bank customers

ANZ recently made a financial relief package available for customers affected by devastating bushfires across the nation with many homes, properties and livestock already destroyed.

While the immediate focus needs to be on their safety, ANZ encouraged customers affected by the fires to contact the bank when appropriate so they could discuss how to access measures in the financial relief package, including:

  • The ability to suspend repayments on loans, including credit cards, for up to three months (which may include interest capitalisation)
  • Temporary interest rate relief on lending for customers experiencing extreme financial distress in areas impacted by the fires
  • Waiving of fees associated with restructuring business loans considered necessary due to bushfire impacts
  • Access to term deposits early without incurring any fees
  • Assistance for affected customers with ANZ Home and Contents insurance as they may be eligible for measures such as emergency funds and temporary accommodation.

Customers can also contact ANZ’s dedicated financial hardship team on 1800 149 549 or anz.com/hardship. They are also encouraged to contact their relationship manager to discuss the impact on their business or personal circumstances.

(Source: ANZ website)

 

CBA customers

An emergency assistance package is available for Commonwealth Bank customers affected by bushfires around Australia.

CommBank Emergency assistance package

(Source: CBA website)

 

Westpac Banking Group (Bank of Melbourne, St George) customers

Westpac Group today has announced that its Disaster Relief Package is available to customers who are facing financial hardship following severe bushfires in NSW and Victoria. The Package is also available to Bank of Melbourne and St.George customers who are impacted by the fires.

The Westpac Disaster Relief Package offers various options*, including the following:

  • Impacted customers with Westpac home loans may apply to defer repayments for up to three months;
  • Affected businesses can request loan restructuring without incurring the usual bank fees such as establishment fees and break costs;
  • Customers wishing to purchase replacement goods may apply for a personal loan at a discounted interest rate with no establishment fee;
  • Westpac may waive interest rate adjustments for affected customers wishing to withdraw term deposits; and
  • Impacted Westpac customers with Home and Contents insurance may be eligible to receive assistance under the terms of their insurance policies for emergency accommodation.

Westpac customers who wish to use these special relief measures or need assistance should contact Westpac Assist on phone 1800 067 497, or alternatively call their local Bank Manager. This offer is available for customers to take up within three months of today’s date.

(Source: Westpac website)

 

Bendigo Bank customers

Bendigo Bank has announced a Bushfire assistance package.

The key features of the Assistance Package for bushfire affected customers include:

  • Home Loan and Business Loan customers can apply for relief on loans for up to three months
  • Credit card customers can apply for an emergency credit card limit increase
  • Discounted interest rates on new personal loans taken out by existing Bendigo Bank customers
  • Waiver of interest rate reduction for early withdrawals on term deposits prior to maturity
  • No ‘loan break’ costs for customers with a fixed rate who use an insurance payment to pay out their loan
  • Existing customers with home and contents insured through CGU Insurance can apply for emergency funds and temporary accommodation costs

Affected Bendigo Bank customers are advised to speak with their local Branch Manager, Business Banking Manager or contact our Mortgage Help Centre on 1300 652 146 regarding financial hardship and applying for assistance, or visit our help page.

(Source: Bendigo Bank website)

 

Latitude Financial

Latitude Financial has set up a dedicated assistance line for customers affected by the bushfires: 1300 858 151 | 9:00am-5:00pm (AEDT) Monday to Friday.

(Source: Latitude website)

Fines

Fines enforcement

A temporary hold has been placed on fines and warrant enforcement activities in affected areas in the wake of this disaster. This includes temporarily ceasing all Sheriff’s activities within the affected areas, and a hold on issuing a range of fines related notices from state government agencies and Fines Victoria.

Some people within the affected area may still receive fines-related correspondence. Anyone directly affected by the fires who receives a notice regarding their fines can contact Fines Victoria for support in managing them.

Fines Victoria and Sheriff’s officers are also encouraging people impacted by the fires, who do not reside in an affected area, to make contact to discuss the options and support available. This may include tourists in fire-affected areas, firefighters, police and emergency services, and the families of people directly impacted by the fires.

Fines Victoria staff will consider individual circumstances and discuss the options available.

To contact Fines Victoria, please call 9200 8222 or 1300 369 819 (regional callers) between 8am and 6pm weekdays (except public holidays), or visit www.fines.vic.gov.au/

Insurance

Bushfire insurance guide

A factsheet from Financial Rights Legal Centre in NSW is available here: https://insurancelaw.org.au/factsheets/bushfire-insurance-guide-factsheet/

 

The National Debt Helpline (NDH) has developed some tips on making an insurance claim following a disaster:

Click here to download the factsheet.

 

Insurance Claims Management Services

The Financial Rights Legal Centre website operates a Insurance Law Service containing advice and advocacy for consumers in financial stress. The site contains valuable information and advice regarding Insurance Claims Management Services: https://insurancelaw.org.au/factsheets/insurance-claims-management-services/

 

Those having trouble with their insurance companies can contact the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) on 1800 734 621 or the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) on 1800 931 678. Often getting the ICA to help is a great first step that hastens the response time of the company. https://disasters.org.au/current-catastrophes/2019/11/13/november-bushfires

 

MoneySmart resources for people affected by natural disasters: https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/insurance/home-insurance/storms-floods-and-fire

Legal advice

You can call Disaster Legal Help Victoria on 1800 113 432 to get free information about your legal issues and options for ongoing assistance. http://www.disasterlegalhelp.org.au/

Lawyers are available from 8am until 6pm Monday to Friday on 1800 113 432 and can help with understanding your legal options after a disaster and next steps with issues such as insurance or tenancy.

(Source: Victoria Legal Aid website)

Utilities

If you are having trouble paying your gas, electricity or water bill, contact your retailer to access hardship assistance.

 

Water

If you’re in a Victorian bushfire affected area and without drinking and domestic water supply due to tank contamination, Melbourne based water corporation, South East Water, will be your single point of contact for help. Anyone seeking emergency water help from the bushfire affected areas should call them on 13 18 51 and press 9.

More information can be found here: https://southeastwater.com.au/NewsEvents/Pages/Emergency-water-relief-for-bushfire-affected-residents.aspx.

 

EWOV

The Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV) website also provides some information on what to do if you can’t pay a bill, as well as concessions and grants. https://www.ewov.com.au/issues/trouble-paying-a-bill

 

AGL

AGL customers who have experienced significant loss as a result of the bushfires can also contact the dedicated bushfire relief helpline on 1300 001 545.

 

AusNet

AusNet is offering a number of special assistance measures to support customers affected by the bushfires, including:

  • fast-tracking eligible GSL payments (a payment of up to $360);
  • waiving annual network charges (between $188-$130 depending on the customer type) for customers who have been without power for more than 7 consecutive days; and
  • waiving fees and charges that would normally be applied to standard reconnections.

For those customers who are currently without power and whose restoration date is likely to be at least three weeks from when access is gained, AusNet will contact these customers individually to discuss their situation and possible means of assistance. This assistance may include small, household generators which can power a limited number of electrical items such as refrigerators, lights, computers and mobile phones.

Phone and internet

ACCAN

The ACCAN website provides information on connectivity and coverage in affected areas, as well as assistance packages available from telecommunications providers: https://accan.org.au/hot-issues/1684-telco-bushfire-response

 

TIO

If you are in a bushfire or flood affected area and have attempted to resolve your phone or internet issue with your provider, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on our Natural Disasters phone line, 03 8600 8308, or visit the website www.tio.com.au to lodge a complaint.

 

Telstra customers

Telstra customers affected by bushfires should call 132 203 and state they are in a bushfire impacted area, or visit Telstra Exchange online to access the disaster relief services.

https://exchange.telstra.com.au/victoria-bushfire-assistance-2019/

 

Optus customers

Optus customers affected by bushfires should call the dedicated phone line 1300 301 671. Optus is also working with local evacuation centres in the affected areas to provide support including pre-paid phones, pre-paid data packs and charging stations.

(Source: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman website)

 

Vodafone customers

Vodafone has taken steps to ensure that customers in fire affected areas are not automatically disconnected if they fall behind on their bill payments.

Vodafone has a range of options available under their hardship policy for any customers who have been directly impacted by the fires. Those customers can apply for financial assistance by contacting Vodafone’s Financial Hardship team on 1300 650 405.

(Source: ACCAN website)

Tax

ATO

For people impacted by the bushfires, the ATO will automatically grant deferrals for lodgments and payments due. You, or your agent, don’t need to apply for these deferrals.

If you have been affected by this disaster but your postcode is not currently in the identified impacted postcodes list, you can phone the ATO’s Emergency Support Infoline on for help 1800 806 218.

The ATO has set up a dedicated webpage for people affected by the bushfires: https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Dealing-with-disasters/In-detail/Specific-disasters/Bushfires-2019-20/

 

Land tax (State Revenue Office)

Businesses, families, and individuals whose properties have been destroyed or substantially damaged by bushfires will receive ex-gratia relief for their 2020 land tax assessment. Land tax will be also be waived on eligible properties being used to provide free accommodation for people who need it.

For people who decide not to rebuild in their local community, the Government will provide up to $55,000 in stamp duty relief if they buy a home elsewhere.

For people who lost motor vehicles due to bushfires, they can receive up to $2,100 in ex-gratia relief from the duty on up to two replacement vehicles.

The State Revenue Office (SRO) has suspended land tax assessments in affected areas, and will continue to support businesses in fire-affected areas.

(Source: Victorian Premier’s website)

The SRO have published a list of affected postcodes for which land tax assessments have been placed on hold. Additional postcodes may be added to the list. Click here to view the information: https://www.sro.vic.gov.au/news/2019-20-victorian-bushfires-land-tax-assessments-hold

Emotional assistance

It is normal to have strong emotional or physical reactions after an emergency – these feelings are part of the healing process. Here are some strategies for coping with trauma in recovery.

(Source: Vic Emergency website)

 

Bushfire Recovery Access Program

Free counselling and additional mental health support for individuals, families and emergency services workers affected by the bushfires if available through the Department of Human Services:
Click here to visit the website

 

Assisting a person affected by the bushfire crisis

The following factsheet has been developed by Mental Health First Aid to help members of the public to provide mental health first aid to someone who is experiencing distress related to the bushfire crisis:
Click here to download the factsheet

 

Looking after yourself and your family after a disaster

Beyond Blue has put together an information resource to assist people recovering from disaster. This booklet is for adults and is designed to help you
understand the reactions you – or someone you know – may
be experiencing. It contains practical advice, numbers to call
and websites to visit if you need extra information or support.
Click here to download the booklet

Emergency support services

For information on emergency support services in languages other than English, please visit the Health Translations website https://www.healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcht.nsf/PresentDetail?Open&s=Emergency,_crisis_and_support_services

Assistance for volunteer firefighters

Several of the above resources have been made available to volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters are encouraged to contact a financial counsellor to find out what assistance they may be eligible to receive.

The following items have been may available specifically to support volunteer firefighters.

 

Phone and internet

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have announced they will waive bills for volunteer firefighters for December and January in appreciation for their efforts in protecting communities around Australia.

Telstra, call 13 22 03
Optus, call 1300 301 671
Vodafone, call 1300 650 410 or visit a Vodafone store and quote your official volunteer ID number

(Source: ACCAN website)

 

Utilities

AGL has announced that it will provide account credit to its customers registered as volunteer firefighters. $150 credit per customer can be applied to their gas or electricity bill where the customer provides their volunteer ID number to AGL customer service staff. Volunteer firefighters can contact AGL at their convenience on 131 245 at any time before 7 July 2020 to claim the credit. AGL customer service centres are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

(Source: AGL website)

Powershop will apply a one-off credit of $100 to the Powershop electricity account of any volunteer firefighter or SES volunteer that provides their volunteer ID number.

(Source: Powershop website

 

Financial Institutions

CBA‘s Emergency Assistance Package has been extended to all volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters should call 1300 720 814 to discuss their circumstances.

(Source: CBA website)

This information was updated: 6 February 2020.