Independent experts join Red Cross’ drive to support bushfire communities

Australian Red Cross has engaged four independent and pro bono emergency relief experts to bolster efforts to meet the needs of people impacted by bushfires.

They will also support efforts to plan and allocate money to affected communities over the long term.

The Red Cross is currently distributing $1 million a day to support individuals and communities impacted by bushfires. This includes $10,000 emergency grants for those whose homes have been destroyed and $20,000 bereavement payments to meet unmet needs during this difficult time, including funeral and related expenses. Staff and volunteers also continue working in communities that have been impacted, providing practical and emotional support, relief supplies and connecting people to vital services.

“These four experts are providing independent advice on the best use of funds to meet people’s immediate needs. Those impacted are our first priority. The experts will also advise on the allocation of funds to meet the long-term recovery needs of affected communities,” said Australian Red Cross Chief Executive Officer Judy Slatyer.

“We allocate funds based on our on-the-ground contact with affected communities, and our own extensive experience in disasters. These experts will bring additional knowledge and experience to inform decisions.

The external experts have extensive experience in community engagement and disaster response. They join the existing bushfire advisory panel, established at the beginning of January, that oversees the allocation and distribution of the funds for bushfire response. They were approached last week and formally met as a panel yesterday. The four are:

  • Anne Leadbeater, a Community Engagement Manager with the Murrindindi Shire Council, Victoria, who lived through the 2009 Black Saturday fires as a Kinglake resident. Following the fires, she worked on behalf of the local council to coordinate the initial recovery efforts for the Kinglake Ranges communities.
  • Karlene Maywald, a former South Australian Minister for Water Security during one of the worst drought periods in living memory. She worked for a year as a local recovery coordinator for the Sampson Flat bushfires and a duty Minister for the Port Lincoln fires. She has also served on numerous national ministerial councils, including the Regional Development Ministerial Council.
  • Patrick McNamara, a former Deputy Premier of Victoria who also served as government minister across several portfolios including as Minister for Police and Emergency Services. He currently chairs the Victorian Government’s Victorian Bushfire Appeal.
  • Ivan Simon, the president of Aboriginal Children’s Advancement Society and member of Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation. He was seconded to the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs to assist with the management of the Aboriginal Communities Development Program. He is Co-Chairperson of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Authority and currently works in an environment that assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in rental accommodation to sustain their tenancies.

“We’ve been working in communities since the fires started and we are moving as quickly as possible to ensure we provide further immediate support to individuals and communities across Australia. We are on the ground and we will stay there throughout the long recovery period,” Ms Slatyer said.

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