This week marks the end of the truly devastating bushfire season we have come to know as Australia’s Black Summer.
As we continue to endure new and extraordinary challenges, it is especially poignant we mark the end of this bushfire season and acknowledge the past eight months have already been catastrophic on many fronts for many Australians.
Thirty-three members of our community – including nine firefighters – were tragically killed this bushfire season. Across the country, we lost over 12 million hectares of land, 3000 homes, and 7000 facilities and outbuildings. Our hearts broke as masses of native flora and fauna perished.
I’d like to again express sincere thanks to the volunteer firefighters and support staff who responded to this unprecedented crisis. There are many people continuing to help communities recover now. These efforts capture the absolute best of the Aussie spirit. For months and years to come, we will remember the mateship – the community spirit – shown throughout this period.
I also want to highlight the steps taken so far towards recovery.
The National Bushfire Recovery Agency is continuing to throw its support behind impacted communities. We’ve provided more than $199 million in disaster recovery payments and allowances, helping over 162,000 claimants. We’ve approved over $104 million in grants to more than 9,200 small businesses already. Those numbers will climb further as we bolster support for bushfire-affected communities.
We have a long way to go in our healing journey, but I am encouraged by the many stories of survival and strength coming out of our bushfire-affected communities.
The economic, social, and environmental impacts of the 2019-20 fires have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. And in the face of these challenging times, I want to assure Australians that we are continuing to take an active role in bushfire-affected communities to ensure they have the support they need, when they need it.
Recovery activities are continuing, albeit somewhat differently to what we initially envisaged. We are adapting and implementing a range of innovative methods to continue our important work, including online community engagement and virtual visits.
We are still here for you, advocating on your behalf. Stay safe, and keep in touch.