Since we first hit the ground running in January, the work of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency has been twofold – helping with immediate relief, whilst looking ahead for emerging and longer term recovery needs.
We have moved quickly to get money flowing, while continuing to grow our evidence base around the areas hardest hit and what those communities need. Making immediate relief payments to families and individuals to help them get back on their feet was a priority.
In our first few weeks, that also meant delivering emergency funding to local councils most impacted by the fires at the time, whilst in many cases fires still raged and specific information on community needs was not at hand.
As more council areas were disaster declared, and our understanding of impacts grew, we refined our initial emergency funding response, making it available to more councils based on the areas hardest hit by the fires.
This early funding was focussed on the immediate needs post the fires including a safe place to stay, funding for food and clothing, mental health support, getting roads open, and phones working again.
This initial support then allowed us to starting working with communities on early recovery including support for small businesses and industry such as agriculture and forestry, tourism and environmental recovery and of course our work with State governments on critical debris clean-up.
Throughout this time we have been conscious of the experience of many communities, and especially the impact the fires had on the health and wellbeing of individuals. Our mental health initiatives remain at the forefront of everyone’s efforts.
It’s never possible to have a perfect understanding of current and emerging recovery needs, but we are constantly engaging with our state and local government partners as well as charities, non-government organisations and the local communities to understand and anticipate need. This is supported by data and expert analysis that complements the lived experiences communities have shared with us.
Earlier this year the NBRA worked with consultancy group Ernst and Young to identify initial indicators of the impact of the fires on local economies and local industry drivers.
While the consistency of data available from so many jurisdictions was a challenge, Ernst and Young was able to provide estimates on economic exposure that combined with more qualitative inputs provides a good sense of the magnitude and relative severity of economic and industry impacts by local area.
We also commissioned social research company The Social Deck to give us a greater insight into local communities information and engagement needs ensuring we could be as timely and effective as possible as we assisted them on their road to recovery.
Looking forward, we are now transitioning from immediate relief to longer term recovery support that will be delivered in partnership with State and Local governments through our investment in Local Economic Recovery and Complementary Projects as well as our ongoing projects in the social, environmental, and economic and infrastructure sectors.
Supporting this work will be an ongoing gap analysis that will review the economic, social, infrastructure and environmental impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires. This will take into account existing and complementary support measures and identify gaps in recovery effort, including a methodology for updating this work into the future.
Until next time, take care.