Information for bushfire support for individuals and families during recovery.
On this page
- Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment
- Disaster Recovery Allowance
- Property clean-up
- Homebuilder and bushfire affected communities
- Back to school, early education and care assistance
- Child Care Assistance
- Additional support for volunteer firefighters
- Support for job seekers
- Emergency relief
- Financial counselling
- Help making financial decisions after a bushfire
- Health advice
- Emotional and mental health support
- Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services
- Additional support for Indigenous Australians
- Tax exemption for Disaster Relief Payments
- ATO assistance
- Other support measures
- National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
- Lost or destroyed passports or citizenship certificates
- Redeeming damaged banknotes
- Bushfires Disaster Emergency Declaration
The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment is a one-off payment if:
- you get seriously injured
- you lose an immediate family member
- your home is significantly damaged or destroyed
- assets located at your home suffered major damage from the fire.
You will get $1,000 for each eligible adult and $400 for a dependent child under the age of 16. The Australian Government has also announced an additional $400 ($800 in total) for each eligible child to help families with education expenses. You will automatically get this payment if you are the principal carer of a child affected by bushfires after 30 June 2019. Eligibility requirements are equivalent to the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.
This is an automated extra payment. The payment will appear in a customer’s bank account the following business day.
To claim, call 180 22 66 between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday. Public Holiday times vary. Most payments will be in your bank account within 24 to 48 hours of making a claim.
Read more about the Disaster Recovery Payment on the Services Australia website.
If you have lost income as a direct result of the bushfires, you may be eligible for the Disaster Recovery Allowance. This is an income support payment for up to 13 weeks. This is equivalent to the maximum rate of Newstart or Youth Allowance.
To claim, call 180 22 66 between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday.
The Australian Government is working with the New South Wales, Victorian, and South Australian Governments to share the cost of clean-up. This includes residential and commercial properties destroyed by this season’s bushfires. There is no cost to property owners for this clean-up initiative.
Property owners can register their property for clean-up by contacting organisations listed below:
- New South Wales: 13 77 88 or at NSW Bushfire Clean-Up – Register Now
- Victoria: 1800 560 760 or at Bushfire Recovery Victoria
- South Australia: (08) 8204 2051 or at Green Industries SA
What is HomeBuilder?
The HomeBuilder scheme provides eligible owner-occupiers (including first home buyers) with a grant of $25,000. This includes building a new home or renovating an existing home. The Homebuilder grant is available to first home buyers.
This grant is a stimulus policy, supporting construction industry workers through COVID-19 impacts. In doing so, it is also helping many Australians to build, rebuild, or extend their homes.
We are working with Commonwealth and State partners as HomeBuilder is implemented to help people in bushfire-affected communities assess eligibility for Homebuilder.
How is this relevant for me?
If the bushfires damaged or destroyed your home, the Homebuilder grant may be useful to you.
Homebuilder may cover those knocking down or rebuilding a home. This includes homes destroyed in the fires. This applies under the rules for substantial renovations rather than new builds.
- The value of the house and land needs to be less than $1.5 million combined before the renovation (more generous than the $750,000 limit for people building new homes)
Visit Treasury.gov.au for full details and eligibility regarding the Homebuilder scheme.
Don't rule yourself out. You may be eligible for help you have not considered.
Call and talk to your relevant State disaster authority about your circumstances:
- New South Wales - Request a call with a Bushfire Customer Specialist or visit the Bushfire Customer Care Service page.
- Victoria - call 13 22 15 or visit the Business Victoria Bushfire Recovery Assistance page
- South Australia - call 1800 302 or visit the Department of Human Services Disaster Recovery page.
- Queensland - call 1800 173 349 or visit Queensland Government's Recovery after Disaster page
The Red Cross provides grants up to $40,000 for those who have lost their homes in the 2019-20 bushfires.
If your home was a caravan or mobile home, you may be eligible for a $10,000 re-establishment grant.
For more information, visit the Red Cross Bushfire Grants Q&A page.
Other support is available to families. If you have a child returning to school or early education in a bushfire-affected area, you may be eligible.
Mental health support
Students, parents, carers, educators, and support staff can access mental health support through Be You. Be You is the Australian Government's national education initiative. This initiative supports child and youth mental health. A total of 25 mental health liasion officers will work with schools and early childhood education services affected by the bushfires.
Schools and early childhood education and care services yet to participate in the Be You initiative can sign up for free.
Find more informaton in the NBRA's mental health support section of this page.
Additional Child Care Subsidy
Families living in bushfire declared areas can get help with child care costs. Apply for the Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship). This is short-term help (up to 13 weeks) for families who use childcare and are experiencing significant financial hardship.
This subsidy is available to families who:
- have experienced temporary financial hardship due to an event that happened in the last six months
- have a substantially reduced ability to pay child care fees.
Up to 100 hours of care is also available. Read more at Services Australia’s Additional Child Care Subsidy page.
Child Care Subsidy-Activity Test
Exemptions to any Childcare Subsidy-Activity test debt apply for families living in bushfire-affected areas. This spans the 2019-20 financial year. This applies automatically when Childcare Subsidy is balanced at the end of the financial year.
Community Child Care Fund
The Australian Government is providing funding for early childhood education and care services in bushfire-affected areas. Granted through the Community Child Care Fund, the funding will ensure early childhood education and care services in bushfire-affected areas remain available. This will help pay for things like temporary premises, the replacement of damaged playground equipment, or wages for affected staff.
Visit the Support for Bushfire-affected Communities page on the Department of Education website for more information.
Higher education support
Help for current students and university applicants who have been impacted by the bushfires may be available from their education provider or Study Assist.
Scholarships of up to $18,000 are available through the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships program. Special consideration will be given to students from drought and bushfire-affected communities.
For more information visit the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships page on the Department of Education website.
The Australian Government has supported volunteers in the 2019-20 fire season. Payments of up to $300 per day, with a total cap of $6,000, are available. The payments are tax-free and not means tested.
Eligibility criteria is different in each state. Contact your relevant state authority for more information:
- New South Wales: call 13 77 88 or visit www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/apply-volunteer-firefighter-payment
- South Australia: call 1300 364 587 or visit https://service.sa.gov.au/register_interest_in_the_volunteer_firefighters_financial_support_program
- Queensland: call 1800 268 462 or https://www.qld.gov.au/emergency/volunteering-jobs/volunteer/qfes-volunteer-compensation-package
Commonwealth public servants volunteering with state rural fire services are able to access a minimum of four weeks (20 days) of paid emergency services leave to work on the frontlines. This is separate to their regular annual and sick leave arrangements.
Telecommunications providers including Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone are also offering specific relief for volunteer firefighter customers. This includes free mobile phone bills for certain periods. Contact your service provider for more information.
Mutual obligations for job seekers in disaster-declared areas are suspended until further notice.
Job seekers located outside the bushfire-affected regions affected by the crisis (eg. volunteering as firefighters/SES or caring for family members who have lost their homes) have been encouraged to contact Centrelink to seek an exemption from their requirements. Exemptions can be granted for an initial period of up to 13 weeks.
The suspension of requirements for job seekers is automatic. Contact Services Australia for further help regarding Jobseeker arrangements.
The Australian Government has provided an extra $40 million in emergency relief for bushfire-affected communities.
You can get immediate support if you live or work in a bushfire-affected community.
To receive emergency relief, you can call:
- The Salvation Army Disasters Assistance team on 1300 662 217,
- St Vincent de Paul bushfire assistance on 13 18 12; or
- visit the Department of Social Service’s website for a full list of Commonwealth funded emergency relief services to find services in your region.
The Australian Government is providing $10 million to increase the amount of face-to-face financial counselling services delivered in bushfire-affected areas. If you are experiencing financial hardship, call the free National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 (Monday to Friday 9.30am-4.30pm) or visit the National Debt Helpline website.
Visit Moneysmart for financial information and support services that can help you after a bushfire.
Not feeling like yourself after the bushfires? It’s normal to have strong emotional and/or physical reactions after a significant event, and you may be feeling this way if you were impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires. Many people find discussing their circumstances with a trusted expert helpful.
The Australian Government is funding more emotional and mental wellbeing support services for people impacted by the fires. Services are confidential, and can help you with your personal bushfire recovery.
How to access support
Free counselling sessions
If you live in an area affected by the fires, you can access up to 10 free counselling sessions.
The Primary Health Network (PHN) in your area arranges additional mental health services. These are confidential. You do not need a GP referral, diagnosed mental health condition, or mental health treatment plan to access these sessions.
If you can’t find a service in your area, call 180 22 66 and ask about counselling after the fires. They will talk to you about the options.
Easier access to Medicare rebated sessions
Bushfire-affected individuals are eligible for Medicare rebates for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions. These can be face-to-face or accessed via telehealth.
You do not need a GP referral, diagnosed mental health condition, or mental health treatment plan to access these sessions.
You do need to cover any costs on top of the Medicare rebate.
Book through an eligible psychologist, occupational therapist, social worker, or GP in your area.
Find a service provider:
- Find a Psychologist (through the Australian Psychological Society website)
- Find a Social Worker(through the Australian Association of Social workers website)
- Find an Occupational Therapist (through the Occupational Therapy Australia website)
- Or contact your GP to find out if they are eligible to provide psychological therapy.
Visit on-the-ground support
You can access emotional and mental health support by contacting:
- Your GP or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
- Your local recovery centre
- Your local headspace centre (for young people 12 to 25 years)
Call for a chat
You can access telephone support by contacting:
- Services Australia Disaster Hotline – 180 22 66
- Lifeline’s dedicated Bushfire Recovery Crisis Support line 13 HELP (13 43 57)
- Mensline – 1300 78 99 78
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800 (telephone counselling for young people aged 5 to 25)
Or hop online
- www.headspace.org.au support for young people aged 12 to 25 years
- www.emergingminds.com.au for helpful advice and practical strategies to help you support small children in uncertain times
- au.reachout.com/collections/natural-disasters for resources to help you cope during and after a disaster, including online forums for anonymous peer-based support
Wellbeing help for your community
In January 2020, the Australian Government announced a $76 million package to provide mental health support services to emergency personnel. This includes firefighters, and individuals and communities impacted by the bushfire disaster.
This includes the free counselling and Medicare-rebated therapy sessions described above. It also includes:
- an expansion of headspace services for young Australians
- training in trauma-informed care and psychological first aid to frontline emergency response workers, their families, and employers
- community recovery initiatives to support connectedness and social cohesion.
Support is also available through school communities:
- Beyond Blue’s Be You program is rolling out across bushfire affected schools
- The National Chaplaincy program also provides support
Kids Helpline is also available on 1800 55 1800.
The govenrment has committed an extra $13.5 million in funding to local Primary Health Networks in bushfire-fire affected areas. This is a two-year funding plan to help affected areas commission non-clinical and community-based activities supporting emotional and mental health.
If you are unable to see a doctor or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service to request a prescription, you are able to discuss your options with a pharmacist or your GP.
If you have any relevant documentation, it may be useful to bring it with you as it may assist in identifying the medicines you have been taking. If you don’t have your concession cards available, your pharmacist can call the PBS general enquiries for assistance on your behalf.
You can get a replacement Medicare card in the following ways:
- in person at a Service Centre
- using your Medicare online account through myGov or the Express Plus Medicare mobile app
- calling the Medicare general enquiries line on 132 011
Culturally appropriate, comprehensive primary health care services are available through local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services or Aboriginal Medical Services. Most of these services provide access to a GP, nurse, or Aboriginal Health Worker.
Visit HealthDirect to find your nearest Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service or Medical Service.
The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) is available to assist Indigenous Australians and their communities, organisations, and businesses get access to supports and services. Contact details are available through the NIAA support to bushfire affected communities page.
The Australian Government’s Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) is providing a $2,000 bushfire crisis grant. IBA is also suspending loan repayments for those affected, and will assist customers who need help with insurance claims. This assistance can be accessed through the Indigenous Business Australia’s Assistance for bushfire affected customers page.
See our support for small business page for information on other support for bushfire-affected Indigenous corporations.
Disaster relief payments for individuals and businesses affected by the bushfires are tax exempt.
If you have having difficulty meeting your tax and super obligations, call the ATO on 1800 806 218. Solutions may vary based on your individual circumstances.
Further information is available on the ATO's dedicated Bushfires 2019–20 webpage.
Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements
Additional relief and recovery assistance is available under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) for bushfire-affected communities. This includes individuals, primary producers (including fishers and foresters), and small businesses.
Depending on your location, assistance may include financial support for emergency assistance and housing damage, and recovery grants and concessional interest rate loans for small businesses and primary producers. DRFA assistance is administered by State Governments. Visit your state or territory emergency management services for further information on the specific assistance available in each state.
If you are an NDIS participant affected by the bushfires, contact the National Disability Insurance Agency on 1800 800 110.
Aged care residents who are moved temporarily to a different residential home due the 2019-20 bushfires will continue to receive all their services in the new location.
Australians whose passports have been lost or damaged in a natural disaster may be eligible for a free replacement.
Affected citizenship certificate holders can apply for replacement through the Department of Home Affairs webpage.
Banknotes damaged in the bushfires may be redeemed through the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank will determine the value of the damaged banknotes and reimburse you the assessed amount.
The Attorney-General, the Hon Christian Porter MP, has made an emergency declaration under Part VIA of the Privacy Act 1988. Agencies and organisations subject to the Privacy Act 1988 may collect, use and disclose personal information about an individual impacted by the bushfires for several permitted purposes. These purposes may not otherwise be allowed under either the Australian Privacy Principles or non-national security related secrecy provisions. A permitted purpose is a purpose that directly relates to the Commonwealth’s response to the emergency or disaster that the emergency declaration is about. The declaration is in force from 20 January 2020 until 20 January 2021.
A copy of the declaration is available on the Federal Register of Legislation, and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has published guidance for agencies, organisations and individuals with information about their rights and obligations with regard to the declaration.