Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund advisory panel chair Pat McNamara today announced a range of new gifts and programs to support bushfire-affected communities, with all funds donated by the public now fully committed.
The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments, in partnership with Australian Red Cross, established the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund in the immediate aftermath of the bushfires of February 7 to oversee the allocations of the large public donations received.
The Appeal Fund raised $391 million through donations and interest which has now been fully committed to a range of short, medium and long-term initiatives and programs to support the people and communities affected by the Black Saturday and Gippsland fires.
Mr McNamara said the Appeal Fund was continuing to help address some of the needs of people and communities who were directly affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires.
He said the Appeal Fund had identified further gifts for people in bushfire-affected areas who are still experiencing financial hardship and other difficulties and a range of programs including:
A $3.5 million gift for those with permanent impairment – Individuals who are suffering from long-term physical or psychological injuries, which have had a significant impact on their daily living activities, and who are in financial hardship may be eligible for grants of at least $10,000 assessed on a case by case basis;
- A new package of more than $5 million to provide additional support and assistance for the bereaved including an extension to the grief and bereavement counselling program and a new service specifically aimed at assisting young people who are grieving;
- A specialist support program for people who have suffered a severe burns injury and who are still needing to receive care;
- Up to $12 million for new community and cultural facilities in Kinglake and Marysville, both of which are being developed in close consultation with the two communities. A cultural and community facility will be built in Kinglake, to support the performing and visual arts and provide facilities for lifelong learning and training opportunities, while new cultural, arts and community facilities will be developed in Marysville to support the ongoing recovery effort;
- A gift of $14 million for people suffering financial hardship and in need of permanent accommodation – Home owners who lost their principle place of residence, are not in permanent accommodation and are suffering extreme financial hardship may be eligible for grants of either $10,000 or $25,000;
- A $5.6 million package of services will assist in the recovery of young people impacted by the bushfires including outreach, mentoring and counselling services; and
- Funding worth almost $1 million will provide neighbourhood level small grants, as well as Playgroups Victoria support programs, to focus on addressing the recovery needs of children aged 0 to 5 years from fire-affected communities.
Mr McNamara said an Appeal Fund gift which provides free portable toilet and shower units to bushfire affected people living in temporary accommodation on their properties would also be extended until March 30, 2011;
The availability of the counselling vouchers for individuals will also be increased to 12, double the original allocation.
Other existing support programs that the Appeal Fund has extended include $1.4 million for the YMCA school holiday program to continue to provide recreational and educational activities for students and almost $200,000 to extend programs for senior Victorians to help them reconnect with each other and their community through a range of activities.
The new initiatives outlined today build on $6.7 million announced by the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund earlier this week towards a range of community rebuilding projects to drive the next stage of community rebuilding and a range of support programs and individual gifts outlined by the Fund since its establishment.
Mr McNamara said the Panel was pleased the Fund was now fully committed and that people would continue to be supported in their longer-term recovery.
“I am touched by the many stories we receive from people who have been affected by the 2009 bushfires and benefited from the extraordinary generosity of donors,” he said.
“Of the total Fund, more than $310 million has been committed towards gifts for individuals and families and $81 million for community initiatives.
“Over $275 million has been paid out, representing more than 25,000 payments in total. Of this amount, more than $260 million has gone to individuals and families for emergency, housing, financial, physical, bereavement and psychological support gifts and programs.
“The remaining committed amount of $116 million will continue to be paid as individuals apply for the new gifts, programs and projects roll out and milestones are met.”
Funding has also been set aside by the Advisory Panel to help meet medium to long term recovery needs in bushfire affected areas, with a new community advisory committee to provide advice to the Panel on recovery priorities.
Premier John Brumby welcomed the new announcements and said the funding would build on existing support to help communities and individuals recover and rebuild after the devastating fires in February last year.
“I congratulate the Advisory Panel on their dedication and hard work to ensure the Appeal Fund is fully committed,” Mr Brumby said.
“The Appeal Fund advisory panel has made decisions that reflect the intent with which people from Victoria, Australia and across the world so generously donated their money in the aftermath of our nation’s worst natural disaster.”
For further information about assistance should call the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund Hotline on 1800 180 213 or visit www.dhs.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal.