Supporting communities with moneys from Vinnies National Bushfire Appeal and from Emergency Relief funds

Call us on 13 18 12 if you need help with bushfire recovery

This page was updated in December 2020. Figures are as at 30 November 2020.

To date:

  • $25.6 million has been raised through the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal

  • $21.5 million (84%) has been spent and committed in Queensland, NSW, ACT, Victoria and South Australia

  • $4.1 million (16%) remains available for recovery projects from July 2020 to December 2021.

Commonwealth Emergency Relief Funds

  • $12.2 million has been provided by the Commonwealth Government to support Emergency Relief

  • $11.2 million (92%) has been spent

  • $1.0 million (8%) remains available to eligible households in Queensland, NSW, ACT and South Australia

Click here for the latest report.

Click here for all bushfire recovery services in your area

Select your residential state to find out more or phone 13 18 12:

NSW         Canberra/Goulburn         Queensland          South Australia          Victoria

The Vinnies Bushfire Appeal was first opened in response to catastrophic bushfires in northern NSW in late September 2019, and later expanded to become a national appeal to support communities affected by the 2019-20 Black Summer Bushfires across Queensland, NSW, the ACT, Victoria and South Australia.

Thanks to generous donations from members of the public, businesses and philanthropists, $25.6 million was raised to support people who suffered devastating damage to their homes and their livelihoods from the fires.

NSW

Funds raised in NSW through the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal have been incredibly important in supporting people and communities impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. So far, we have distributed or committed $8.1 million of the $9.2 million allocated to NSW from the bushfire funds (this does not include parts of the far NSW South Coast which fall under Canberra/Goulburn team’s management). 

We have also worked in partnership with the Commonwealth Government to support people in designated bushfire-affected postcodes, with $6.6 million in government Emergency Relief Fund payments distributed by Vinnies in NSW.

Our volunteer members are embedded in communities right across the state and were often the first to render assistance to their neighbours in the immediate aftermath of the bushfires. Your generous donations have provided:

  • emergency financial assistance including rent and mortgage payments, car repairs and registration, medical expenses

  • food, clothing, and household items

  • crisis accommodation when homes were destroyed or damaged or when people were evacuated, and

  • other financial and emotional support to help get people back on their feet.

As we moved from immediate disaster relief into the recovery and rebuilding phase, your donations are being used to help communities deal with the long-term impact of the fires. Over the past two months, we have also launched community grants programs. 

Community Grants Program

A total of $1.2 million has been committed for use in the Community Grants Program, with one-off grants of up to $20,000 to support local activities and projects. About half the funding for Community Grants Program has already been spent on projects running the gamut from providing vouchers for firewood to renovating community halls to nurturing the arts in regional centres.

Some Community Grant examples include:

  • The Tumbarumba Community Church has already distributed thousands in firewood vouchers, care packs, clothing, and fuel. The grant is helping it to continue its Recovering Together Project and reach scores more families with the aid it is providing.

  • Nowra and Ulladulla-based Noah’s Inclusion Services is an NDIS-registered not for profit organisation that specialises in early childhood education and support for children of all abilities. Ulladulla is using a grant to revitalise its outdoor area through the Noah’s Playground Project. Once complete, the aim is to boost capacity and enhance its therapy programs for kids with disabilities and special needs in the bushfire-impacted community.

  • The Thunggutti Local Aboriginal Land Council is using a grant to create the Thunggutti Cultural Burning Team. This will be the first of its kind in the area and it will train community members to develop culturally appropriate land management. A primary objective is to reduce future fire hazards, but the project also aims to encourage local Indigenous people as well as other members of the community to engage with Aboriginal history and culture.

Community Development Program

We are also using $1.2 million to run a Bushfire Community Development Program which sees experienced Vinnies community workers placed in a number of areas identified to be most affected by the bushfires and vulnerable to ongoing disadvantage. Vinnies community development workers will consult widely with residents, councils, local businesses, and organisations, to develop and lead a tailored plan for local recovery.

The Bushfire Community Development Program is the Society’s response to support the recovery process by integrating the work of local conference and member networks with the knowledge and technical capability of the Society’s Community Inclusion team. 

The Community Development Program leads recovery by:

  • creating opportunities to hear from the diverse groups within community

  • providing opportunities for people to form new and strengthened connections with peers, family, and community networks

  • strengthening and developing skills that promote resilience and recovery

  • identifying opportunities to make community spaces, places, groups, and systems more inclusive, and

  • working in partnership with our Conference Members building on the crisis response together to support communities in their recovery.

The first region supported through the program was Kempsey, where Vinnies began working in July 2020. 

Following the roll-out of the Vinnies NSW Bushfire Community Development Program in Kempsey, the program will be expanded to other communities across the state.

Canberra/Goulburn

In Canberra/Goulburn (lower South Coast NSW, Snowy-Monaro and Queanbeyan Palerang) the Society is reaching out to those impacted by the fires who have not yet sought our assistance. Emergency relief funds from the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal are continuing to be distributed to those who have lost homes (up to $3000). More information on Emergency Relief funds can be found HERE.

There is an additional focus on community recovery and a first round of grants directed to community recovery was launched in August 2020, with around $334,000 being allocated over 23 projects. A second round of grants launched in September attracted 39 applications which are currently being assessed. The potential for a third round in early 2021 is under consideration.

Our next focus is on community development. A position has been advertised for a community development officer to run a trial program in a remote area of the NSW Far South Coast.  The officer will work with the community to generate ideas to boost community development, develop project plans, and assist in implementing them.

Victoria

Through the generosity of our supporters St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria received $5.7m in funds for bushfire recovery and rebuilding. Over the past 12 months, we have worked closely with local communities and have distributed/committed $5.4m – or 94% of funds gratefully received – to help rebuild these communities.

Shortly after the bushfires raged through parts of Victoria we took the very public stance of saying that every dollar raised though our Vinnies Bushfire Appeal would be used to support the people impacted by the fires – and we are proud to state that this has been the case. In addition, Vinnies Victoria has not and will never keep funds from disaster appeals for any other work or cause, and that includes administration. We rely on generous donations from Victorians to support our good works and receive no government bushfire funding here in Victoria.

Our experience after the Black Saturday fires in 2009, Bunyip in 2019 and, now, the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires told us that it takes take 12–18 months as people slowly return to their towns or to a new location. We will be actively assisting people in these communities for as long as we are needed.

Over the past 12 months, we have:

  • worked with local government to assist people who we had not been able to contact directly

  • offered one-off community grants for recovery projects of up to $20,000

  • provided emergency, recovery and rebuilding payments to the value of $3.03 million for people who have experienced loss and critical loss, including funds for land clearing, water tanks, generators and fencing, as well as material assistance such as food, fuel, clothing, bedding, laptops, school uniforms education fees and other ancillary expenses, and

  • provided additional support as identified by the community.

We are ever thankful to the Jewish Community of Victoria for providing $1 million towards education costs for schools and students affected by the Black Summer bushfires. Over the past 12 months, we have distributed all of this generous gift, via activity such as:

  • 38 higher education grants to the value of $304,000

  • the 12-month appointment of a trauma counselling social worker at Mallacoota P1-12 College

  • a $250,000 rebuild of a basketball court and sports facility in Mallacoota, and

  • two mini-buses – to the value of $140,000 – for two regional bushfire-affected primary schools.

We are so thankful to everyone who supported our Vinnies Bushfire Appeal. We have always said that every dollar we received in Victoria through the appeal would go towards funding bushfire recovery and rebuilding, and we have never wavered from that commitment.

Remaining funds will be allocated in the following ways:

Rebuilding Funds

As part of the long-term rebuilding process, support is available for those families who lost significant housing/property. 

We are aware of a number of properties that we have not been able to support because we have not had contact with, or have been unable to contact, the householders. We are working in partnership with the local council to reach out to those householders in the East Gippsland area.

Those rebuilding homes whom we have been able to support are being encouraged to recontact us again to see if we can assist with additional support. 

Community Grants

We are offering community groups or organisations in bushfire-fire affected regions the opportunity to apply to the Vinnies Victoria Bushfire Community Grants to fund local projects. This may include paying for repairs to shared facilities, such as halls or sports venues, funding to get a local service back on its feet, conducting recreational activities to bring the community together and promote healing or counselling, and providing educational programs linked to the experience of the fires. These are just a few examples of what community groups in the fire-impacted areas could apply for in our latest initiative. 

Vinnies Victoria expects the grants to take a variety of forms and encourages community groups to be innovative in their applications. The community grants come at a targeted time in the long-term recovery process and complement a broad range of schemes already being distributed to and implemented in bushfire-impacted communities by Vinnies Victoria throughout 2020. 

Communities organisations are encouraged to apply for grants of up to $20,000.
For more information regarding Victoria's bushfire updates:

South Australia

In South Australia, all of our donated bushfire funds have been distributed and we have also distributed all available Emergency Relief Funds on behalf of the Federal Government.

If you are experiencing hardship, please contact the Vinnies Assistance Line on 1300 729 202 between 9am and 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Queensland

Queensland volunteer members are present in communities big and small throughout the state, and always ready to support locals in times of hardship.

Anyone who has – as a result of the fires – experienced loss or damage to their property, loss or damage of their belongings, or loss or impact to income/ livelihood, is eligible for emergency assistance including:

  • food and grocery vouchers

  • clothing, blankets and other essentials

  • financial assistance to pay bills 

  • interest-free loans for a variety of household items

  • emotional support and a shoulder to lean on, and 

  • referrals to other service providers.

In Queensland, the impact of the fires has been primarily to grazing land and agricultural infrastructure, such as fences and sheds. Vinnies volunteers have revisited many families that were fire affected in October and November 2019, and who did not seek help at that time. The recent fire assistance has been mainly from the Yeppoon area (Livingstone LGA), with some claims from the Scenic Rim local government area.

More information on Emergency relief funds can be found HERE.

More information on bushfire updates can be found HERE.

To request Emergency relief support or assistance, call 1800 VINNIES (1800 846 643) and enter your postcode to be connected to volunteers in your local area.
 

 

How we have helped so far

Our presence embedded in communities across the fire-devastated areas meant that Vinnies was often the first to render assistance immediately after the destruction. 

Many of our volunteer members live and work in the affected communities. They were on the ground to support their neighbours and start providing a hand up to those in need. The generous donations of Vinnies supporters enabled them to play that vital role.

Thanks to the incredible public fundraising effort, our volunteers were able to deliver assistance including:

  • making cash payments of up to $3,000 to supplement the Commonwealth’s Emergency Relief Fund payments of $1,000

  • delivering food, clothing, essential items, grocery vouchers

  • paying for emergency hotel accommodation for people who lost everything

  • paying bills to help households recover

  • referring people onto other organisations providing crisis accommodation and specialised services, and

  • giving emotional support and practical assistance in the wake of the fires.

So far, Vinnies has disbursed more than $21.5 million in Vinnies Bushfire Appeal funds, supporting almost 9,400 households across Queensland, NSW, the ACT, Victoria and South Australia. 

In partnership with the Australian Government, we also helped to distribute $1,000 Emergency Relief Fund grants in Queensland, NSW, the ACT and South Australia, ensuring these funds could reach those who needed them most. So far, we have distributed almost 9,400 of these government grants (in addition to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal funds).
 

Who we're supporting

Farmers: The Sages are a farming family who had been “bled dry” by the drought before the bushfires arrived, making matters even worse. “Where a lot of people including the government just leave you to your own devices, so to speak, [Vinnies has] always been making sure we’re alright.” >> Read more

 

 

Families: Storm, Al and baby Zeke lost everything when bushfires hit the Northern Tablelands town of Wytaliba (NSW). “Vinnies has been brilliant,” Al said. “The initial emergency funding came through quickly, and the ongoing support has been so important to helping us get through. The personal support is vital and really appreciated.” >> Read more

 

 

People who lost their livelihoods: The Tarmac Sawmill, near Rappville in northern NSW, was completely lost in the fires. “I can walk you around a timber mill and explain exactly what’s going on. But when it comes to going online and filling in forms, I’m totally lost,” said one employee, now out of work. “The fact of the matter is that I’m pretty much illiterate. That’s why today has been great… these guys [Vinnies] are wonderful.” >> Read more

People with disability or health concerns: Tinamaria narrowly avoided losing her home in the NSW South Coast bushfires, but the smoke inhalation added to the physical health problems she already experiences. The emotional trauma will stay with her, too. “You sort of get along just automatically, and then when you start talking about it you notice that it’d affected you more than you know.” >> Read more 

 

People who were uninsured: Anne was building a tiny home out of a shipping container, having recently moved after the devastating death of her mother. “When I tried to get insurance, they said it’s not quite a house and it’s not quite in contents and it’s not quite this, so I just fell through the cracks… So I said alright, leave it because in a couple of months I’m hoping to get it made into a house, and we’ll go from there. That never happened.” >> Read more 

 

On behalf of everyone at Vinnies and those we assist, thank you to the generous donors who supported the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal. We acknowledge all the people and organisations who provided donations both from home and overseas. In particular, we wish to thank our Vincentian brothers and sisters whose emotional and financial support during the peak of the bushfire crisis highlighted the collegiality that has its origins in the good works demonstrated by our founders. 

Below, a small sample of the people we supported share what your generosity has meant to them:

“The day St Vincent de Paul put that money into our account gave [my husband] so much hope, he knew he could feed his cattle." – Glynis 
>> Read more

 

“Vinnies as an organisation has really - I mean, they're great. You can't speak highly enough of them.” – Lorraine 
>> Read more

 

 

“I just want to convey my sincere thanks to Vinnies and the thousands of people who donated, for the generous donation given to me when I visited the Bush Fire Recovery Centre at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club.  The people there were just great - understanding and sympathetic. ” – Ineke
>> Read more 

The continuing journey to recovery

As we move forward towards the recovery journey, Vinnies wants to inform our donors and those we are assisting that our approach to recovering from a natural disaster is a marathon, not a sprint. We are committed to being there beside communities for the duration of that journey, just like we have done in the past. For instance, Vinnies is still supporting people who lived through the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 in Victoria, and more recently the Tathra bushfire of 2018 in NSW. Our role is to support local people to develop their plans to rebuild their houses, their local communities and their towns. 

It is important for donors to be confident that every dollar raised to assist those who have been impacted by the bushfires across such a large area of Australia will be spent on those in need.

We have taken no administration fees from donations to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal (we are very lucky to be able to cover costs through other income sources). All funds donated to the Bushfire Appeal will be spent to help those people and communities affected by the bushfires including direct response already provided and ongoing community rebuilding over the next 12-18 months. 

“Our situation is going to go for another 12-24 months, and it’s going to be emotionally and financially challenging. It’s only now that we’re starting to get our feet back on the ground that we can look around and see what we might need.”
 – Jani Klotz, speaking one year after losing her home in the 2018 Tathra bushfire.

Our focus is on developing enduring relationships with people in affected communities – something we are uniquely equipped to do through more than 45,000 volunteers and members who live and work in metropolitan, suburban and regional locations right across the country.

We recognise that no two people’s experience of the bushfires is the same; nor are their future needs likely to be identical. We aim to be flexible and effective in our recovery response, ensuring that we are giving people and communities the assistance they need rather than deciding what is needed for them.

The impact of coronavirus – and next steps

We plan to conduct a series of community meetings to work together with communities in determining our local and hands-on response. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has delayed these plans, but we are urgently considering contingency methods such as live-streamed, online meetings.

As the coronavirus restrictions begin to ease, our bushfire recovery coordinators are starting to again go out to communities and consult on the local recovery plan – particularly for large-scale rebuilding projects to restore community facilities, farms and businesses.

Importantly, we will continue supporting individuals. Over the coming months, our members will be providing additional one-on-one support and connecting those who are doing it particularly tough with specialised services. We will give particular attention to those dealing with more complex matters in their recovery journey, including those living with a disability, experiencing family violence, addiction, mental health challenges and trauma, and who are at risk of homelessness beyond the temporary dislocation caused by the bushfires.

Community grant application processes have been completed or are underway in NSW, Canberra Goulburn (covering the Far South Coast NSW) and Victoria, making the remaining appeal funds in bushfire-affected locations available for communities to access. A range of projects and activities that provide the most benefit to those in the impacted communities have been supported. Community development officers will also be established in NSW and the Far South Coast. Beyond granting the money, Vinnies will be on-hand to work alongside these communities in bringing their recovery plans to life.

Frequently asked questions