Statement on Red Cross response to bushfires

Information to be attributed to Noel Clement, Director Australian Programs, Australian Red Cross

The Australian Red Cross has received an incredible level of support. In total, people have donated $115 million and this continues to rise.

All funds raised since July 2019 will go to our Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. This fund ensures Red Cross teams are on the ground supporting people as the fires happen (and other disasters we sadly expect to happen over the coming months) and to support individuals and communities to recover from these bushfires. Currently, all our efforts and resources are going to the unprecedented bushfires emergency we are facing.

We have already committed $30 million to meet people’s immediate needs by way of $10,000 emergency grants for those whose homes have been destroyed. We’ve already paid 559 grants and we’re finalising hundreds more. In addition, a $20,000 bereavement payment is now available to the next of kin of someone who is bereaved for their unmet needs, including funeral and related expenses. This is just the start. As we get clear on what people need and what others are providing, we are committed to providing more support. We are working on this daily.

More than 2,000 Australian Red Cross staff and volunteers have been and are providing around the clock support to communities impacted by the bushfires.

We are applying lessons learnt from other emergency work in Australia and across the globe, including the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

This means we need to retain some funds for a minimum three year recovery program in affected communities, so when the world’s attention turns away and the story moves on locals don’t feel left behind. We have committed to staying in these communities, working with them once their needs become clearer; especially as the bushfires are continuing to burn and the full extent of the needs is yet to emerge. We will not move on. We know from our long experience in disasters that recovery takes time and effort. We are committed to working with communities to shape how these funds can support them.

We understand, and are concerned for some people in fire-affected communities who are having difficulty navigating the range of supports available from us and other organisations. We are 100% committed to making access to our funds as easy as possible. We continue to improve and add to our existing supports for people who apply, including trained volunteers in recovery centres who can assist in navigating processes. For those who have internet or a phone please reach out at redcross.org.au/grants or 1800 727 077. We are making the process as simple and as quick as it can be and we’re reaching out directly to those who apply to support them through the process. There are some challenges. First, we have to check every application, and for many people the documents they need may have been destroyed in the fires. We are trying to make it as easy as possible for these people to access funds.

No more than 10% of funds are being used for administration support costs. This ensures we can pay grants promptly, track donations, collect and analyse information, have systems in place to deploy our emergency teams, and meet legal, privacy and protection obligations. We will be working to keep these as low as we can through pro bono and other offers of support.

We have long experience in managing donations with integrity and undertaking effective distribution, but we always seek to learn and improve our own response. We work closely with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Associations, the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission and the Fundraising Institute Australia. These national organisations have strict standards and codes of conduct which, as a member of these organisations, we are committed to upholding. We are also bound by Australian Taxation Law governing fundraising.

In our response to the bushfires, Red Cross is already working in close collaboration with other agencies including governments, emergency services, and the not-for-profit sector. We’re focused on delivering an effective humanitarian response to this disaster alongside other agencies, seeking at all times to collaborate to the benefit of impacted communities.

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