Australian bushfires: how we’re using funds

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Our plan to help people and communities recover well.

The Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund was set up to enable Red Cross to help people prepare for, cope with and recover from disasters – whenever and wherever they happen.

This summer we’ve seen unprecedented bushfires and unprecedented generosity in response. The fund has been open since 1 July 2019 and by 12 January 2020, it has reached over $60 million and counting.

Schoolchildren are saving up their pocket money and donating it. Workplaces are collecting hundreds of thousands from staff contributions. People all over the world are using their ingenuity, influence and platforms to rally support for Australians.

Donations to the fund have already powered our nationwide response to the bushfires since they began in September.

This is the next part of our plan for how we will use these funds to respond to disasters and to support bushfire-affected communities in their recovery.

We are all in ever-changing waters

Red Cross has been responding to Australian disasters for more than a century, and we have never seen fires of this scope and breadth. The impacts are not only felt in the loss of lives, thousands of homes, wildlife and places that are sacred and special; but also in the physical and emotional toll of smoke in the air, extreme heatwaves and fires that will keep burning for months.

That’s why our plan must adapt.

It will evolve as we go, informed by needs as they arise. It will be part of a bigger effort by government and others, to make sure collective funds go as far as possible and do the most good for people hit hardest by the fires.

What will guide us?

  • What affected people and communities tell us they need
  • Building on people’s immense strength, resilience and community spirit
  • Balancing what people need right now and what will help in the months and years to come
  • What we’ve learned about recovery from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, 2018 Townsville Floods and other events
  • Advice from independent experts

To start with, we’re using $15 million to help people meet immediate needs.
This includes initial cash grants for everyone across Australia who has lost their home to bushfires since July 2019. That’s just the beginning. More financial assistance is being planned and we’ll start to announce it soon.

At the same time, our response to the ongoing fires continues.

Whether it’s shelter and relief supplies for people who are stranded, information and psychological first aid at evacuation centres, or phone calls and home visits in communities trying to clean up and rebuild, we’ve been coordinating a multifaceted response to hundreds of emergencies across every state and territory.

The reality is, the situation will continue for months, compounded by drought and extreme heat. The money that has been raised for the fund will continue to ensure our emergency teams are resourced and ready for wherever they’re needed.

We commit that all funds donated to Disaster Relief and Recovery from July 2019 will be used only for our emergencies work in Australia.

We’re investing in a tailored recovery program over three years or more.

Disaster recovery can take years and is unique to each individual. Recovery includes regaining a sense of control and having a plan; rebuilding or replacing what’s lost, where possible; and finding your way to a ‘new normal’ and a life you have good reason to value.

The right support can go a long way. That includes cash assistance at various points, having someone to talk to, trauma counselling and mental health support, good social networks, access to good information and services, and a connection to community.

Our recovery program will address all these things in ways that are unique to each community. Needs assessments by Red Cross and other agencies will shape it. We will use volunteers and employ key staff to ensure a program of this scale is run well.

More cash grants to affected people and communities are critical, so that people can make choices that are right for them and their families. We will announce further financial assistance as we progress.

No more than 10 cents in the dollar will go to necessary support costs.

This ensures we can pay grants promptly, collect and analyse information from communities, meet legal, privacy and protection obligations to meet immediate needs as well as scaling up to support our recovery work. We’re doing everything we can to keep these costs to an absolute minimum, including seeking pro bono support.

We’ll keep you informed of our plans and spending at every step.

We will use this money with integrity and we’ll show you how and why we’re using it. We want you to see your generosity at work. Above all, we want it to make a genuine difference to the recovery of those most impacted by the bushfires.

Thank you for all you have done.