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.