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Australian bushfires: how we’re using funds

How your donations are helping people recover.

Updated 8 October 2020

$239 million has been donated since July 2019

This is how it is allocated.

On-the-ground disaster services

$5m for 24/7 support during FY19/20 including evacuations, relief centres and outreach services

Financial and practical assistance

$60m to support people whose homes were destroyed
$20m to help homeowners make urgent repairs 
$1.8m for bereavement payments
$8.5m to support people hospitalised for injuries as a result of the fires
$2m for temporary accommodation pods
$87m to help people to re-establish a safe home
$36.7m for people who need further support to recover
$18m to support community recovery for 3 years or more

Administrative support costs
Some funds will also be used for necessary costs (e.g. a grants payments team, fundraising, fraud prevention, legal compliance). To date these have been less than 4c in the dollar for each dollar donated. Some costs will continue to be incurred as we distribute funds.

How much we have disbursed to date

As at 30 September 2020, we have spent or disbursed $173 million. This includes:

  • $157m paid to 5,730 people
  • the cost of our emergency teams for FY19/20 ($5m)
  • our recovery program so far ($1.7m)
  • administrative support costs, currently at less than 4c in the dollar for each dollar donated.

Further detail on how we use funds is listed below.

Read our nine-month update

Our latest update (to 30 September) explains how many people we’ve reached, and what they’ve said about our grants and recovery support.

Read the report

We are humbled by and grateful for the many thousands of people and companies worldwide who gave to the Disaster Relief and Recovery fund during the FY19/20 bushfires.

The total in the Disaster Relief and Recovery fund has increased from $227m (as reported in July) to $239m, as some donations pledged by organisations during the bushfires arrived after the end of the financial year.

Every dollar has been allocated to support people and communities affected by those fires and the work of Red Cross disaster teams. These allocations have been informed and validated by a panel of experts in disaster recovery.

$5m provided on-the-ground disaster services during FY19/20.
This enables Red Cross teams to support 49,718 Australians during evacuations, in relief centres and in fire-affected towns. 

$177.3m is helping people in financial hardship right now.
This comprises the following grants:

  • Emergency grant ($20k) for people whose homes were destroyed
  • Re-establishment grant ($10-$40k) for those whose homes were destroyed  
  • Residence repair grant ($5-10k) to help owner occupiers make urgent repairs
  • Bereavement payment (up to $50k) for next-of-kin
  • Injury grant ($7.5k or $15k) for people injured during the fires

Every day, people write in and tell us how bushfire grants are helping them. For some, it’s replacing precious or valuable things that were lost. For others, it’s finding a safe place to live or making urgent repairs to their homes. But what we hear most often is that they feel like people remember and care about them.

It can take some time for people to feel ready to apply for assistance. An amazing 722 people came forward for the first time between July and September. Many of them were living off the grid, and our recovery officers have been searching for them and supporting them. 

We don’t want anyone to miss out, so we have extended all grants to 31 December 2020.

$36.7m will help people who need further support to recover.
This includes new assistance measures. A new grant will be released in late October that will cover a range of individual needs. Eligibility for this grant is based on ongoing financial hardship as a result of the bushfires.

$2m for temporary accommodation pods.
Red Cross is partnering with the NSW Government, the Minderoo Foundation and the Salvation Army to expand the successful accommodation pod program for people in NSW who lost their homes in the bushfires. We are contributing $2m to provide 40-50 additional pods. These pods come with power, bathroom and cooking facilities and bunk beds, and enable people to stay on their properties while they rebuild their homes. 

$18m is enabling a tailored, three-year recovery program.
Our experience is that the years after a disaster can be difficult for communities, especially once media and public attention turns away. That’s why we have a recovery footprint in 47 local government areas, with recovery officers embedded in bushfire-affected communities.

Our recovery officers have been helping people access the support that’s available to them: from government payments to our own grants. They are linking community leaders with mentors from other areas that have experienced disasters before. They are supporting local service providers and equipping them to work with bushfire survivors. And they’re organising in-person and online events that facilitate community healing. 

$16.7m will support further unmet needs.
We’ll use some of these funds to increase the allocation for existing grants, depending on demand, and for any new assistance measures as needs continue to emerge.

We will continue to keep you informed at every step.
We regularly update this page with distribution figures and our plans and reports. We meet the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission’s high standards for accountability and reporting, and external auditors Deloitte will perform a specific audit on the Disaster Relief and Recovery fund, which will be available with our annual report in November.

To all those who endured the bushfires: you have shown the power of humanity in the face of disaster. We are proud to stand with you, now and into the future.

Questions and answers

How much is going to administration support costs?
Up to 10 cents in each dollar will go towards the real and necessary costs of our response. This helps us get emergency grants to people quickly and securely, prevent fraud, raise funds, collect and analyse information, and comply with the legal obligations of handling funds. Every agency has these costs, which are sometimes covered by government or corporate donors.

We are committed to keeping these costs as low as possible, and we’ve had many organisations providing their help for free, for which we’re grateful.

Our support costs so far have been 4 cents in the dollar for every dollar donated. Most of these support costs are incurred up front to meet immediate needs rapidly. Some costs will continue to be incurred as we distribute funds but these will be as low as possible.

When will you have distributed all the money?
Applications for our existing grants now close on 31 December 2020, to give people who haven’t come forward time to apply. The funds allocated to emerging needs will be used to help those in continued financial hardship. We’re working hard to disburse most of those funds by the end of the year, with some left for people in ongoing financial hardship in 2021, and what’s needed for the remaining two years of our recovery program.

Can you provide money for fences or business losses?
There are charity laws that define what we can do. We are a public benevolent institution, which means we must provide relief to people who are in hardship or financial distress. This is generally interpreted to mean we can help people who have personal losses such as homes they live in, but not people who lost investment properties and holiday homes.

It also means we can only support people; not businesses or animals or community infrastructure. There are many government and other agencies offering bushfire relief to businesses including farms, and we refer people to them.

Are you keeping the money for other disasters?
We used $5 million in FY19/20 to have our teams on the ground responding to bushfires and Australian disasters during that year. This allowed us to provide 24/7 support, including evacuations, relief centres, deploying our emergency teams, training and wellbeing.

All the remaining funds donated to our Disaster Relief and Recovery fund during FY19/20 support our response to the 2019/20 bushfires: including the immediate assistance and longer-term recovery programs we will deliver with communities.

We are now accepting donations in FY20/21 to support our emergency response teams this year.

How will you keep people informed?
We will provide updates on our website. This page will also be updated as we progress.

Useful information

Apply for a bushfire grant

See what grants are available.

Our six-month report

A testament to those who endured the Black Summer and those who gave in response.

Bushfire stories

Meet the people you’ve supported.

Royal Commission submission

Read our voluntary submission to the Natural Disasters Royal Commission.