If you are in immediate danger, please call Triple Zero (000)

Families and individuals

The Australian Government has put measures in place so that families and individuals affected by bushfires can access resources quickly to ease the stress during the recovery phase.

Services Australia have special arrangements in place to help bushfire affected communities, including Mobile Service Centres and Mobile Service Teams. They can help you access all Australian Government payment services.

On this page

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment

The 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
  • a major asset or assets you own located at your principal place of residence has or have been destroyed or 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, and you are eligible for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment. This additional payment is made automatically, and will appear in customer’s bank account the following business day.

To claim, call 180 22 66 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday or between 8am and 5pm Saturday and Sunday. 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.

Disaster Recovery Allowance

If you have lost income as a direct result of the bushfires, you may be eligible for the Disaster Recovery Allowance. It’s an income support payment for up to 13 weeks, equivalent of the maximum rate of Newstart or Youth Allowance.

To claim, call 180 22 66 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, or between 8am and 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

For more information about payments and eligibility go to Services Australia website.

Back to school, early education and care assistance

In addition to the extra payment for children eligible for the Disaster Recovery Payment, a range of other support is available to families with a child starting or returning to school or early childhood education in 2020 in a bushfire-affected area.

Mental health support

Students, parents, carers, educators and support staff can access mental health support through Be You, the Australian Government’s national education initiative, to support child and youth mental health. An extra 25 mental health liaison officers will work with local schools and early childhood education services affected by the bushfires.

Schools and early childhood education and care services that have yet to participate in Be You can sign up for free at any time.

Further information is provided in the mental health support section of this web page.

Child care assistance

Additional Child Care Subsidy

Families living in bushfire declared areas can get help with child care costs by applying for Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship). This is short-term help for families who use child care 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 6 months
  • have a substantially reduced ability to pay child care fees.

For more information go to Services Australia’s Additional Child Care Subsidy page.

Child Care Subsidy-Activity Test

Families living in bushfire declared areas have also been given an exemption to any potential Child Care Subsidy (CCS) activity test debt for the 2019-20 financial year. No action is required at this time, this will be applied automatically when CCS 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 through the Community Child Care Fund. The funding will ensure early childhood education and care services in bushfire-affected areas remain viable, and help pay for things like temporary premises, the replacement of damaged playground equipment or wages for affected staff.

For more information on these measures visit the bushfire assistance page on the Department of Education website.

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.

Contact details can be found on the Study Assist website. Students may also be able to defer or amend their HELP compulsory repayment. The deferring repayments page on the ATO website has more information.

In addition, 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.

More information is available on the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships page on Department of Education website.

Additional support for volunteer firefighters

The Australian Government is supporting volunteer firefighters this fire season with payments of up to $300 per day, with a total cap of $6000. The payments are tax-free and not means tested.

NSW and QLD are participating in this program and there are ongoing discussions to put in place the same arrangements with other states.

The payment is funded by the Australian Government, and administered by the relevant state government. It is for eligible volunteer firefighters who are self‑employed or employed by small and medium businesses and have lost income.

For information in NSW, call 13 77 88 or visit the Volunteer Firefighter Payment on the NSW Government website.

You can also apply in person at a ServiceNSW centre.

For information in QLD, call 1800 268 462 or visit the Volunteer Compensation Package on the QLD Government website.

Commonwealth public servants who volunteer with state rural fire services are now able to access a minimum of four weeks (20 days) of paid emergency services leave to work on the front lines separate to their regular annual and sick leave arrangements.

Telecommunications providers including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are also offering specific relief for customers who are volunteer firefighters including free mobile phone bills for certain periods. For more information please contact your service provider.

Support for job seekers

Job seekers in fire affected areas are not required to meet any mutual obligation requirements until Friday 6 March 2020. Job seekers located outside the bushfire affected regions who were impacted by the crisis (e.g. 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. If you need further assistance on your job seeking arrangements contact Services Australia.

Emergency Relief

The Australian Government has provided an extra $40 million for more 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 call:

  • Salvation Army Disasters Assistance team on 1300 662 217
  • St Vincent de Paul bushfire assistance on 13 18 12

Visit the Department of Social Service’s website for a full list of Commonwealth funded emergency relief services.

Financial counselling

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, you can talk with a financial counsellor or find a financial counsellor near you by calling the free National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 (Monday to Friday 9:30am-4:30pm) or by visiting the National Debt Helpline website.

Specific financial counselling is also available to farmers affected by the bushfires.

Help making financial decisions after a bushfire

Visit Moneysmart for financial information and support services that can help you after a bushfire.

Health advice

To speak to a registered nurse, visit Health Direct or call Health Direct's 24-hour health advice number at 1800 022 222.

Mental health support

The Australian Government is investing $76 million in a dedicated mental health support package for individuals, families and communities, including emergency services personnel, affected by the bushfires.

Accessing support

  • If you live in or have visited a bushfire-affected region, you can access up to 10 immediate, free counselling sessions through mental health services commissioned by local Primary Health Networks (PHNs).
  • If you have been affected by the bushfires, you are eligible to receive Medicare rebates for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions through eligible GPs, psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers. These sessions can be accessed face to face or via telehealth. You do not need a GP referral, diagnosed mental illness or mental health treatment plan to access these sessions.
  • To help find the care that best meets your needs, please speak to your local PHN. PHNs in fire‑affected areas have received funding for bushfire coordinators to assist you to find services in your area. You can contact your PHN through the Department of Health’s PHN map locator tool.

These new services supplement existing services already being provided on the ground.

Existing on-the-ground support

You can access mental health support by contacting:

  • Your GP or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
  • Your local recovery and evacuation centre
  • Your local headspace centre (for young people 12 to 25 years)
  • Services Australia Mobile Service Centres and Teams

Phone support

You can access telephone support by contacting:

Online support

The Australian Government recognises that supporting communities is important in recovery.

  • Local PHNs in bushfire-affected regions will be providing grants of up to $10,000 to strengthen social connectedness and peer support activities. Please contact your PHN if you would like to discuss a bushfire recovery event.
  • Training will be rolled out over the next six months for front line and emergency services personnel in trauma-informed care and psychological first aid, this includes doctors, pharmacists, health professionals and organisations managing frontline emergency staff, including firefighters.

More information on the mental health services that the Australian, state and territory Governments are making available to support bushfire recovery is available in the Department of Health’s information for Australians who have been affected by the bushfires publication.

Medicare

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 General Practitioner.

If you have any relevant documentation, it may be useful to bring them with you as they 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:

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

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 general practitioner, nurse or Aboriginal Health Worker.

Visit HealthDirect to find your nearest Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service or Medical Service.

Air Quality

Surrounding areas of bushfire affected regions are suffering from deteriorating air quality due to the bushfire smoke. It is important to stay informed about the air conditions. See current information on air quality in your current location with AirRater.

Conditions vary in each state and territory from day to day. Check your state or territory government health department website for the most up to date information.

The Australian Government has provided 3.5 million P2 masks from the National Medical Stockpile to state and territory governments as well as Australia Post, the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Defence to ensure the safety of people in bushfire affected communities.

You can find more information about exposure to smoke and ways to prevent exposure, including advice from Chief Medical Officers, on the Department of Health website.

In relation to access and use of any personal protective equipment such as P2 masks, seek or follow the advice provided by state and territory emergency management and health departments. If you are concerned about your health, seek advice from your general practitioner. You can find more information on the use of masks on the Department of Health website.

Telecommunications and energy

Major telecommunications operators are offering disaster relief packages for their customers impacted by bushfires, including Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, TPG and NBN Co. These can include free call diversions from affected lines, different levels of financial assistance, and prepaid credit available at local stores. Free local, national and standard mobile calls and Wi-Fi hotspots (where equipped) are also currently available from Telstra payphones across Australia. Contact your specific provider for more information.

Telecommunications operators have also provided on-the-ground support for bushfire-affected communities. NBN Co. provided Sky Muster satellite enabled Wi-Fi services to 29 Evacuation Centres in NSW, Vic and SA. Three NBN Co. RoadMuster trucks were also deployed to affected areas to provide Wi-Fi, charging stations and display emergency information for communities. The full list of Wi-Fi locations is available on NBN's 2019/20 Bushfire recovery and support updates. Telstra and Optus deployed temporary telecommunications facilities to help reconnect emergency services organisations and communities in Mallacoota, Corryong, LaTrobe, Malua Bay and Tumbarumba.
Telecommunications operators are also offering specific assistance to front line responders including volunteer firefighters, outlined in Additional Support for Volunteer Firefighters.

Find out more about your communications options in an emergency on Department of Communications website.

Immediate bill relief will be provided by Red Energy and Lumo Energy – the retail arms of Government-owned Snowy Hydro Limited – to their customers in Victoria, NSW, SA and south east Queensland who have been impacted by the bushfires and for volunteer firefighters who are customers. Customers can call the Red Energy and Lumo Energy Customer Care Team on 131 806 to have their bill credit applied.

Telstra:

Optus

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA)

TPG group

Additional support for Indigenous Australians

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 for home loan and business finance customers directly impacted by the recent bushfires. IBA is also temporarily 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.

Tax Exemption for Disaster Relief Payments

The Australian Government is taking action to ensure that disaster relief payments made to individuals and businesses impacted by the bushfires are tax exempt.

Further information is available at Tax exemption for disaster relief payments.

ATO Administrative Relief

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has announced assistance for taxpayers in identified bushfire impacted postcodes. This includes automatically deferring to 28 May 2020, the due date to lodge and pay money owed as a result of business activity statements, income tax, self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF), fringe benefits tax (FBT) and excise returns.

Taxpayers impacted by the bushfires can contact the ATO’s Emergency Support Infoline on 1800 806 218 for help. This phone line is available for everyone, including those who are outside the identified impacted areas. The ATO can:

  • give taxpayers extra time to pay their debt or lodge tax forms;
  • help taxpayers find their lost tax file number;
  • re-issue income tax returns, activity statements and notices of assessment;
  • help taxpayers reconstruct tax records that are lost or damaged;
  • prioritise any refunds owed;
  • set up a payment plan tailored to individual circumstances including an interest‑free period; and
  • remit penalties or interest charged during the time the taxpayer has been affected.

Further information is available on the ATO website: Bushfires 2019–20.

Other support measures

Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements

A range of additional relief and recovery assistance is available under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) for bushfire affected communities, individuals, primary producers (including fishers and foresters) and small businesses.

Depending on where you live, this 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. For further information on the specific assistance available in each state visit your state or territory emergency management services.

Property clean-up

The Australian Government is working with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments to share the cost of clean-up for residential and commercial properties destroyed by this season’s bushfires. This service is provided at no cost to property owners.

Property owners can register their property for clean-up by contacting organisations listed below:

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

Any NDIS participant who needs assistance with their disability support due to the bushfire situation is encouraged to contact the National Disability Insurance Agency on 1800 800 110 to discuss their circumstances.

Residential aged care

Aged care residents who are moved temporarily to a different residential home due bushfires will continue to receive all their services in the new location.
For more information call the My Aged Care contact centre on 1800 200 422.

Lost or destroyed passports or citizenship certificates

Australians whose passports have been lost or damaged in a natural disaster may be eligible for a free replacement.

Affected passport holders can call the Australian Passport Information Service on 131 232. More information is available on the Australian Passport Office website .

Affected citizenship certificate holders can apply for replacement through the Department of Home Affairs webpage.

Redeeming damaged banknotes

If you have banknotes that have been damaged in the bushfires, you can submit a damaged banknote claim through the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank will determine the value of the damaged banknotes and reimburse you the assessed amount.

Bushfires Disaster Emergency Declaration

The Attorney-General, the Hon Christian Porter MP, has made an emergency declaration under Part VIA of the Privacy Act 1988, which allows agencies and organisations subject to the Privacy Act 1988 to collect, use and disclose personal information about an individual impacted by the bushfires for several permitted purposes that 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.