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Australian bushfires: how we’re using funds

How your donations are helping people recover.

Updated 21 December 2020

$240 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
$25m 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
$82m to help people to re-establish a safe home
$28.2m for final grant payments and unmet needs in bushfire-affected communities
$18m to support community recovery for 3 years or more
$9.5m for administrative support costs to date

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 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 17 December 2020, we have spent or disbursed $201 million. This includes:

  • $185m paid in grants to 5,808 individuals and households
  • the cost of our emergency teams for FY19/20 ($5m)
  • our recovery program so far ($2m)
  • administrative support costs, currently 4c in the dollar for each dollar donated.

Further detail on how we use funds is listed below.

Read our December update

To date, 5,808 people have received grants, including $17.5m in additional support grants for people in financial hardship.

Read the update

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.

All donations have been allocated to bushfire activities and operations to support them, including Red Cross emergency service teams on the ground. 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. 

A total of $205.5m has been allocated to 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
  • Additional support grant for people on low incomes and in financial hardship

People still 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. More than 800 people came forward for the first time since July. Many of them were living off the grid, and our recovery officers have been searching for them and supporting them. 

The vast majority of eligible people have now come forward. But we don’t want anyone to miss out, so we have extended all grants to 31 December 2020.

We sometimes reallocate funds between grants depending on the needs we see. For example, more people have applied for repair grants and fewer applied for re-establishment grants, so we have re-allocated funds to better provide for people’s needs.

Our additional support grant will support people who are still in financial hardship.
Our limited remaining funds are being used to provide further support to people who have already received assistance. The additional support grant, released in November, is for people who are on low incomes and still in financial hardship. 1,891 people received this grant in December, with payments up to $10,000. A second, smaller grant round will be available in February 2021.

$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. 

We will continue to keep you informed at every step.
We regularly update this page with distribution figures and our plans and reports. We have met the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission’s high standards for fund management, 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 was allocated to 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 most 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.

A letter of thanks from our Patron