ACOSS Statement on Bushfire Crisis

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“We share the grave sense of sorrow felt so deeply across the community for the tragic loss of life, homes, livelihoods and nature inflicted by these terrifying, unprecedented megafires, fuelled by climate change.

“Amid the devastation and sadness, we are so grateful to our courageous firefighters and our members in the community sector working tirelessly to provide urgent support and relief on the ground, including staff, volunteers and donors.

“The groundswell of support from across the community and the great desire to help is a testament to our shared humanity.

ACOSS has prepared the following guide for people who need help or want to help : https://www.acoss.org.au/media_release/getting-help-or-helping-during-the-2019-2020-bushfires-emergency/

“It’s vital that the Government plays its role providing adequate support to the thousands of people so badly affected.

“So many people have lost everything and urgently need financial support, especially those with nowhere else to go and those who haven’t been able to afford insurance.

“We welcome the $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund and look forward to further detail about how the funds will be made available and for what purposes.

However right now, we need urgent action on two fronts:

Firstly we urge the Federal Government to increase the disaster recovery payments to individuals from $1,000 to up to $3,000 for people who have been adversely affected by a major disaster and from $400 to $1,000 per child. These payments have not been increased since 2006. We are very concerned that the current payments are seriously inadequate, particularly for people on lower incomes and with fewer assets, family and friends to secure transport, alternative housing options and immediate recovery resources.

Secondly, we recommend that the Government allocate immediately an additional $30 million in funding to food relief community sector organisations to respond to the surge in need which is likely to continue for many months.

“We welcome the decision to suspend debt recovery and mutual obligation arrangements for people receiving income support in bushfire affected areas for two months. However we must ensure this applies to volunteer firefighters who reside outside affected areas. We also call on the Federal Government to suspend the quarantining of income support payments through debit cards for people affected by these disasters, noting the challenges accessing EFTPOS at this time.

“Importantly, key to our future response to disasters like these bushfires must be action on climate change. Australia must strengthen its own response to the climate crisis, and take a global leadership role on climate change.”

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