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
  • $13.5 million distributed to more than 4,300 people; and
  • $9.4 million committed to recovery project over the next 18 months.

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.

This page was last updated 21 May 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 $13.5 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