Resources for communities impacted by bushfire

Published on 09 January 2020

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In true Australian spirit, many community members are eager to make a donation of money or goods to assist people, communities and animals devastated by the recent bushfires.

However the Victorian Government is urging people to donate money rather than goods. Relief centres are overwhelmed by donations, diverting resources away from critical tasks. The best way people can help impacted communities is through financial donations.

Victorian Bushfire Appeal

The Victorian Government has launched a new fund in partnership with the Bendigo Bank Community Enterprise Foundation and the Salvation Army, dedicated to helping Victorians impacted by the recent bushfires.

Donations to the new fund will be held in a dedicated account overseen by Pat McNamara, former Victorian Deputy Premier and Minister for Police and Emergency Services.

The appeal will also address the most immediate priorities of communities, including the rescue and rehabilitation of local wildlife. 100% of donated funds will go directly to communities in need. Victorians can donate by visiting vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal.

The Australian Red Cross

The Australian Red Cross is also accepting financial donations for its Disaster Relief and Recovery fund. The Red Cross has been supporting evacuees at the frontline, facilitating food and water provisions and providing registration services. To donate to the Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org.au/.

The Red Cross, along with other agencies, has asked people to donate cash not goods at this time. Managing clothes and other items takes resources away from the frontline and puts more trucks on our roads. Agencies do not have the storage capacity or the personnel to manage goods. Providing cash will give communities the flexibility to support local business as they begin to get back on their feet.

People leaving, or who were in a fire area, are asked to register as soon as possible with Register. Find. Reunite to let people know you are safe. Access via register.redcross.org.au or by calling 1800 727 077.

Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund

The Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) is a registered charity that was established in 1978 to provide immediate short-term funds to Gippslanders affected by natural disaster events. It is completely funded by donations from businesses, community groups and individuals. Run by volunteers, all donations are returned to the community. To donate visit www.gerf.org.au.

Supporting farmers

The Victorian Farmers Federation is coordinating fodder relief for farmers affected by bushfires in Gippsland and Upper Murray. The VFF is also managing offers of agistment. To register assistance, please call the VFF on 1300 882 833 or visit their website https://www.vff.org.au/vff/Resources/Donations/vff/Donations.aspx?hkey=660181a7-acec-4401-a876-ecad98159e93.

To arrange a visit from Agriculture Victoria, farmers should contact Vic Emergency on 1800 226 226. Affected farmers can access immediate financial support through both the Victorian Emergency Relief Assistance Payment via the Vic Emergency hotline and the Commonwealth Government’s Disaster Recovery Program Payment on 1800 226 226.

Animal welfare

Agriculture Victoria has requested the Australian Defence Force and DEWLP assist with the burial of dead livestock. Agriculture Victoria is responsible for coordinating animal welfare response and recovery activities.

  • Agriculture Victoria AW assessment damage and loss number 1800 226 226
  • RSPCA temporary emergency accommodation for animals 03 9224 2222 or rspca.org.au. RSPCA is also providing wildlife assistance
  • Wildlife Victoria 24 hour contact for injured animals 13 000 94535 or wildlifevictoria.org.au
  • Useful information on rescuing and supporting injured wildlife – WIRES: wires.org.au/blog/emergency-wildlife-rescue-advice, Wildlife Victoria: wildlifevictoria.org.au/?view=article&id=145:helping-wildlife-during-bushfires&catid=11:wildlife-information

Birth certificate replacement

Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria has advised Victorian birth certificates destroyed by bushfire will be replaced for free. For assistance phone: 1300 369 367 or visit bdm.vic.gov.au

Fines Victoria

Fines Victoria will provide assistance with managing unpaid fines to anyone who has been affected by the bushfires. Contact Fines Victoria to discuss your options and the support available. https://online.fines.vic.gov.au/News/Support-for-those-affected-by-bushfire

Financial advice and fundraising scams

The ACCC  is warning people that scammers are using the disaster as an opportunity for financial gain. To ensure that you legitimately help people and animals affected by bushfires, direct your donations to the agencies mentioned above. Also be wary of cold-calling or direct message requests for money as well as crowdfunding requests. These need to be checked to ensure that they are legitimate and registered.

Report scammers to the ACCC by calling their dedicated bushfire related phone number 1300 795 995 or visit the website https://www.accc.gov.au/update/bushfires-and-scams or https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/resources-and-tools/advice-in-a-disaster/fundraising-scams

Free financial advice on insurance, banking and financial hardship in a disaster is also available via Consumer Affairs at: consumer.vic.gov.au/resources-and-tools/advice-in-a-disaster/insurance-banking-and-financial-hardship.

Smoke and air quality information

People may see and smell smoke across parts of Victoria. Smoke can affect people’s health, especially those with heart or lung conditions (including asthma), children, pregnant women and the elderly. If you have any conditions, take your medications and follow your treatment plan.

Where possible, stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed. Switch air conditioners to “recirculate”. Avoid burning candles or using the vacuum cleaner. When there is a break in the smoke, open windows and doors to get rid of any smoke in the house.

If experiencing any symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure, seek medical advice or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 606 024. Anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing should call 000.

Survive the heat

Know the effects of extreme heat, who is at risk and how you can prepare yourself and others as heat kills more Australians than any natural disaster.

Those most at risk are older people, young children and people with a medical condition.

There are five tips to survive the heat:

  • Drink plenty of water; keep a full drink bottle with you and take small sips of water frequently.
  • Never leave children, adults or pets in a car – the temperature can double in minutes.
  • Stay somewhere cool – spend as much time as possible in cool, air-conditioned buildings (at home, at the library, shopping centre or community centre). Block out the sun by closing curtains and blinds, stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.
  • Plan ahead to cancel non-essential outings or reschedule for coolest part of the day.
  • Check in on others most risk, including neighbours living alone, older people, young children and pets.

If you observe symptoms of heat-related illness, seek medical help: call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24 for 24-hour health advice or see your doctor. For more information visit https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/heat