As exhausted firefighters continue to battle out of control blazes across the country and communities are left destroyed, the Federal and State Governments have announced a range funding and specialised agencies to aid recovery and future disaster management for fire-ravaged communities.
So far this bushfire season, the worst that Australia has endured, thousands of homes have been lost, regional communities have been wiped out and tragically 28 lives have been lost.
With the crisis far from over, the Federal and State Governments have begun rolling out funding and support for those who have been impacted by the fires as well as and those who will be impacted in the future.
Among the initiatives and funding are:
- $1 billion in funding over the next two years to help rebuild NSW communities
- The establishment of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency
- $76 million towards mental health services for affected communities
- The establishment of the Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV) agency
$1 billion to assist bushfire-ravaged communities rebuild
The NSW government announced $1 billion in funding over the next two years to assist in rebuilding communities impacted by devastating bushfires across the state.
The funding will prioritise the repair and rebuilding of vital infrastructure, such as roads, rail-lines, bridges, schools, health facilities and communications facilities, which have been damaged or destroyed by bushfires.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said following initial discussions with the Federal Government, it has been confirmed that the Federal Government contribution will focus on direct payments to individuals, small business and local councils.
“The NSW Government’s focus will be to rebuild and where appropriate, improve the infrastructure,” Ms Berejiklian said.
NSW Government Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, said the funding would ensure recovery work could commence without delay and will also have a secondary benefit of stimulating local economies hit hard by bushfires.
“This money will help fast track the recovery process and will also provide an important economic boost to communities doing it tough,” Mr Perrottet said.
“Nobody can undo what is done, but what we can do is ensure these communities have every chance and opportunity to get back to business and start rebuilding as soon as possible.
Newly established National Bushfire Recovery Agency
The Federal Government announced that it will establish a new recovery agency with an initial $2 billion funding to assist and coordinate in rebuilding communities following a destructive start to the bushfire season.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the National Bushfire Recovery Agency would be funded with an initial $2 billion to ensure the families, farmers and business owners hit by the bushfires would get the support they needed as they recover.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the initial $2 billion investment will help to get communities back on their feet by assisting with restocking and replenishing, rebuilding roads and telecommunications infrastructure, mental health support, attracting tourists back to the regions and helping restore the local environment and impacted wildlife.
The Agency will be led by Andrew Colvin APM AOM and will be modelled off the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency, established following the 2019 North Queensland floods, as well as the experience of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority created after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
The Agency will work within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and report to Mr Littleproud. Funding for the Agency is in addition to the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements that have been activated in all bushfire affected areas already with $25 million in Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance flowing to communities.
$76 million funding to support mental health services
The Federal Government has committed $76 million in funding to provide free counselling sessions, extra Medicare and tele-health consultations, an expansion of headspace services for young Australians, and community recovery initiatives.
The funding will be split over multiple areas to provide all affected people and communities with the support needed to recover mentally from the fires.
The funding and initiatives include:
- $10.5 million will be provided to make up to ten free counselling sessions immediately available for individuals, including emergency services personnel, who have been affected by the bushfires
- A further $3.2 million investment will help deploy bushfire mental health response coordinators to fire affected areas
- $29.6 million will be provided for additional Medicare-supported psychological treatment sessions and expanded access to mental health care via telehealth
- An additional $300,000 will be provided to headspace sites significantly impacted by fire to ensure that young people receive support, making a total of $7.4 million funding available in total
- $1 million for training for front line emergency service personnel in trauma-informed care and psychological first aid, which includes training for doctors, pharmacists, and health professionals who are often the first people that communities turn to for support
- $1 million will be provided for training of staff in organisations that manage front line emergency personnel, in order to help them identify and assist emergency personnel who may be at risk
- $16 million will go towards specialist organisations which will provide trauma care services, including for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to emergency service workers and their immediate families
- $3.2 million towards bushfire mental health response coordinators that will be deployed to Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in fire affected areas – these coordinators will ensure that all state and federal services are working together effectively so that any individuals and families in crisis will receive rapid and high quality care
- $6.9 million for community wellbeing grants and further funding for locally tailored mental health services through PHNs
New dedicated agency to guide Victorian bushfire recovery
The Victorian Government announced the establishment of a new recovery agency for the state, the Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV), which will work directly with local communities impacted by bushfires, as we begin the long process of rebuilding and recovery.
The Agency will be wholly focused on the needs of Victorian communities, working closely with locals to ensure that rehabilitation projects are both locally-driven and locally-delivered.
The critical work of BRV will begin straight away with the effort extending across a range of priorities from immediate clean-up and ensuring the health and wellbeing of residents and farmers, to longer-term work to help local communities and local economies, like the agricultural and tourism sectors, get back on their feet.
In line with this, Community Recovery Committees will be established to ensure locals have a voice throughout this process, while local jobs and expertise will be prioritised wherever possible.
Former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Ken Lay, will serve as BRV’s Chair, with Lee Miezis, Deputy Secretary at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, offering extensive knowledge on fire and emergency management including the recovery at Wye River, to serve as CEO.