Supporting communities through the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal

Please call us on 13 18 12 if you need assistance with bushfire recovery.

  • $22.9 million raised through donations
  • $17.0 million spent and committed; and
  • $5.9 million committed to recovery projects over the next 18 months.

Click here for the latest report.

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

Thanks to generous donations from members of the public, businesses and philanthropists, $22.9 million was raised to support people who suffered devastating damage to their homes and livelihoods from the fires.

NSW

Funds raised in NSW via the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal have been incredibly important in supporting people and communities impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. So far we have distributed $5.4 million of the $8.6 million allocated to NSW from the bushfire funds (this does not include parts of the far NSW South Coast which fall under our Canberra-Goulburn team’s management). In addition, $1.2 million has been committed for distribution under the upcoming Community Grants program which will help communities rebuild, focusing on projects with community-wide benefit. This brings the total funds spent and committed to $6.6 million.

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.

We have also worked in partnership with the Commonwealth Government to support people in designated bushfire-affected postcodes, with just over $3 million in government Emergency Relief Fund payments distributed by Vinnies in NSW. Payments are still available for eligible households. If you are in NSW, visit www.vinnies.org.au/erf for more information. For other states, please call us on 13 18 12.

As we move from immediate disaster relief into the recovery and rebuilding phase, your donations will be used to help individuals deal with the long-term impact of the fires. The remaining funds in NSW will be used to help communities rebuild, focusing on projects with community-wide benefit such as restoring community halls and other shared facilities. You will also be helping farms and local businesses get back on their feet. We are now accepting applications for the Vinnies NSW Community Bushfire Grant Program, helping communities on the journey to recovery.

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) as is Commonwealth Emergency Relief funding (of up to $1,000). There is an additional focus on community recovery and a first round of grants directed to community recovery is launching in August 2020. For more information on emergency relief funds visit: www.vinnies.org.au/bushfirecg

Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn Bushfire Community Grants Program is now accepting applications from community organisations and projects that are helping communities in bushfire-affected regions to recover. For more information and to apply, please visit www.vinnies.org.au/bushfiregrantscg

Victoria

In Victoria, there has been a strong focus on engaging with local communities to understand their recovery needs. This included a team of members travelling to Mallacoota and Corryong on a weekly basis, as soon as the roads opened up, which was some six weeks after the bushfires ended. To date we have assisted over 600 individual and families. During Covid-19 travel to the bush fire effects areas is not possible so we have transferred back to a phone and online system to continue to assist supporting local people.

A focus has also been made to support students from kindergarten through to tertiary with their ongoing education. A generous donation from the Victorian Jewish Community is assisting with these grants. One early example of the important assistance that has been provided came as a result of close community discussions where the Society was able to support the engagement of counselling support for students by funding a Trauma Recovery Practitioner at the local school for 12 months to work with students who have been impacted by the trauma of the bushfires. Two additional significant education projects are also in the planning and about to be launched.

In northern Victoria and across Gippsland our volunteers continue to be active across their community, responding to calls for assistance and providing food hampers, bills, education costs and more.

More information regarding Victoria's bushfire updates can be found HERE

South Australia

In South Australia, all of our donated bushfire funds have been distributed. Only Commonwealth Emergency Relief funding (of up to $1,000 cash) is available and a further amount of up to $1,000 is available for bill payment. The types of bills covered include:

  • Electricity/gas/water bills
  • Council rates
  • Clean up property (cutting of trees, movement of trees)
  • Replacement of fire prevention for property (sprinklers etc.)
  • Fencing replacement costs
  • Revegetation costs
  • Generators
  • Solar panels
  • Replacement of household items lost (where this no insurance/insurance doesn’t cover all items/ or applicant is underinsured)
  • Irrigation systems
  • Water tanks
  • Cleaning water connections to the house ( no mains water)
  • Beehives
  • Stock feed
  • Wood for fires
  • Food – credit at supermarkets, butchers
  • Food vouchers – Drake, IGA, Foodland
  • Rent payments
  • Mortgage payments
  • Car repairs/servicing/new tyres – goods vehicles required in all fire affected areas due to distances travelled – Yorketown, Adelaide Hills and KI
  • Car registration or driver’s licence
  • Medical expenses (essential only)
  • School Fees for SA government schools.

Queensland

In Queensland, the impact of the fires has been primarily to grazing land and agricultural infrastructure, such as fences and sheds. Few claims have been received for assistance to repair dwellings. Vinnies volunteers have revisited many families that were fire affected in October and November 2019, and who did not seek help at that time. This increased the number of claims processed in May and June 2020. The recent fire assistance has been mainly from the Yeppoon area (Livingstone LGA), with some claims from the Scenic Rim local government area.

 

To find out more read:

Submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019-20

Date May 20, 2020 - 4:15pm

This submission outlines the Society’s experiences in responding to the 2019-20 bushfires and includes recommendations on what should be done by governments and agencies to improve service responses.

 

Submission to the Royal Commission on National Natural Disaster Arrangements 2020

Date April 28, 2020 - 9:43am

This submission outlines the experiences of the St Vincent de Paul Society in the provision of emergency relief and assistance in response to the 2019-20 bushfires.

This page was last updated 3 August 2020.

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:

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

So far, Vinnies has disbursed more than $16.7 million in Vinnies Bushfire Appeal funds, supporting more than 4,300 households across Queensland, NSW, the ACT, Victoria and South Australia. 

In the particularly hard-hit South Coast region of NSW, approximately $6.6 million has been distributed to date.

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 around 4,500 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.

Soon, we will be opening a grants program in NSW, making the remaining appeal funds in NSW available for communities to access. Grants will be given to projects likely to create the most benefit for residents in the impacted communities. Beyond granting the money, Vinnies will be on-hand to work alongside these communities in bringing their recovery plans to life.
 

Frequently asked questions