Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Australian bushfires: how we’re using funds

Our plan to help people and communities recover well.

Updated 25 June 2020

How your donation is making a difference

Funds raised since July 2019: $220 million

Fund allocations

On-the-ground disaster services

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

Immediate assistance grants

$56m 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 people facing other financial hardship

Mid-to-long-term support

$87m to help people who lost their primary residence to re-establish a safe home  

$18m to support community recovery for 3 years or more  

$21.7m for further unmet needs in bushfire-affected communities 

Some funds will also be used for our admin support 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. 

Fund disbursements

As at Thursday 25 June, $122 million has been spent or disbursed. This includes $111 million paid in grants to 4352 people, as well as the cost of our teams on the ground supporting communities during emergencies this financial year ($5m) and administrative support costs, currently at less than 4c in the dollar for each dollar donated ($6m).

We use this page to keep you updated on how we are using money donated to the Disaster Relief and Recovery fund to help people affected by the bushfires.

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.

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, we’re back on the ground in bushfire-affected communities, looking for people who have not yet applied for a grant and helping them to apply. We’re also attending community meetings and assessing unmet needs that we can help with.

We are grateful for the many thousands of donors worldwide, who made that possible.

Our voluntary advisory panel meets regularly to help us make decisions on the use of funds to support Australians affected by the bushfires.

Here is our full plan and progress update. We update it regularly.

$5 million has provided on-the-ground disaster services for this financial year.
This enabled Red Cross emergency teams to help an estimated 50,000 Australians during disasters in FY19/20. It included our work in evacuation and recovery centres, outreach services, deploying our volunteers and ensuring their training and wellbeing.

$175 million is helping people in financial hardship.
Thousands of Australians have received grants so far. But not everyone who is entitled to a grant has come forward. We continue to encourage people to apply and have increased our community outreach.

This amount includes:

• $56 million is supporting people whose homes were destroyed
A total of $20,000 per household. We have increased the allocation for this grant because we are seeing more people come forward. Further support is available through the re-establishment grant (see below).

• $20 million to help homeowners make urgent repairs
Many people’s primary place of residence is still standing, but may require structural repairs to make it safe to live in. We have increased this grant to $10,000 per household to help with repairs to things like ceilings, floors, private generators, water tanks and septic systems.

• $1.5 million for bereavement payments
We have provided a bereavement payment to the identified senior next of kin of people who have died in the fires. All eligible senior next-of-kin who have requested the payment have received it.

• $8.5 million to support people who were hospitalised for injuries as a result of the fires
This is a grant of $7,500 or $15,000 for people who spent two or more days in hospital as the result of physical injuries or mental health issues caused by the fires. It will help with out-of-pocket expenses.

• $2 million is supporting people who face other financial hardship.
This includes people identified and referred to us by other services.

Funds are also supporting people in the mid-to-long term, as they re-establish their homes.

$87 million is helping people re-establish a safe home.
A re-establishment grant is providing further support to people who lost their primary place of residence in the fires. Formerly called the rebuild grant, it is now open to owner occupiers, people who were renting homes that were destroyed, and people who were living in non-permanent structures such as caravans, or mobile homes that were destroyed in the fires.

$21.7 million will be used for further immediate and longer-term bushfire assistance.
This enables us to provide further assistance as needs arise – whether that’s increasing existing grants due to demand, or introducing new financial or other forms of support.

$18 million is enabling a tailored, minimum three-year community recovery program.
Our experience from a century of disaster responses, including the Black Saturday Fires of 2009, is that recovery takes time and community recovery is critical.

The right support can go a long way. That includes having someone to talk to, trauma counselling and mental health support, good social networks, access to good information and services, and a connection to community.

Our recovery program will address these things in ways that are unique to each community. It will run for three years or more. It will be informed by needs assessments, be done in coordination with communities, government and service providers, and be implemented by dedicated key staff and volunteers.

We will keep you informed of our plans and spending.
We meet the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission’s high standards for accountability and reporting. Most importantly, we want to make a genuine difference to the recovery of those impacted by the bushfires, and we want those who gave so generously to see the impact of their donation.

COVID-19 and our response
We’re still paying grants every day, working remotely. We’re also providing psychological first aid and other support by phone, and supporting partner agencies through webinars. And as restrictions ease, we're resuming out community outreach where it's safe to do so.

Questions and answers

Why is your recovery plan for three years or more?
It takes time to recover from these fires: physically, mentally and financially. Right now, people who have lost their homes need somewhere to stay and help with immediate living costs. Our initial grants help them do that. Three months in, the bills might start to accumulate. In six months, they may begin rebuilding. A year from now, the trauma may start to sink in. We want to be there at every step of the way to help – whether with immediate financial assistance as we’re doing now, support with mental wellbeing, access to services or whatever people need.

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.

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. 

People whose homes have been destroyed can access the emergency grant, which is $20,000 to help with whatever their immediate needs are.

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

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

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 report for Jan-April

An account of how we responded to the Black Summer bushfires

Bushfire stories

Meet the people you’ve supported.

Royal Commission submission

Read our voluntary submission to the Natural Disasters Royal Commission.