22 January 2020
The Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund was set up to enable Red Cross to help people prepare for, cope with and recover from disasters – whenever and wherever they happen.
This summer we’ve seen unprecedented bushfires and unprecedented generosity in response. In total, people have donated $115 million and this continues to rise.
All funds raised since July 2019 will go to disasters in Australia, with all our efforts and resources going into the bushfire emergency we have been facing for the last few months.
Donations are now powering our teams on the ground and also going directly to people affected, as emergency cash grants to those whose homes have been destroyed.
Here is the next stage of our plan to support bushfire-affected communities in their recovery.
We have committed $30 million to help people meet immediate needs.
This includes emergency cash grants for people across Australia whose homes have been destroyed in any bushfire since July 2019. The grants were opened on Monday 6 January 2020 and as of 22 January, we have paid 700 grants and we’re finalising hundreds more. We are trying to make it as easy as possible for people to access funds quickly, while doing necessary checks.
In addition, a $20,000 bereavement payment is now available for the next of kin of people who have died in the fires, to help with needs such as funeral costs.
This is just the start. More financial assistance is being planned.
We are all in ever-changing waters.
Red Cross has been responding to Australian disasters for more than a century, and we have never seen fires of this scope and breadth. The impacts are not only felt in the loss of lives, thousands of homes, wildlife and places that are sacred and special; but also in the physical and emotional toll of smoke in the air, extreme heatwaves and fires that will keep burning for months.
That’s why our plan is adapting as we go.
It will evolve as we go, informed by needs as they arise. It will be part of a bigger effort by government and others, to make sure collective funds go as far as possible and do the most good for people hit hardest by the fires.
What will guide us?
- What affected people and communities tell us they need
- Building on people’s immense strength, resilience and community spirit
- Balancing what people need right now and what will help in the months and years to come
- What we’ve learned about recovery from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, 2018 Townsville Floods and other events
- Advice from independent experts
We are advised by an independent panel of experts.
Our panel has both professional expertise and lived experience of disaster recovery, and will advise us on the best use of funds to meet people’s immediate needs and support communities in their long-term recovery.
At the same time, our response to the ongoing fires continues.
Whether it’s shelter and relief supplies for people who are stranded, information and psychological first aid at evacuation centres, or phone calls and home visits in communities trying to clean up and rebuild, we’ve been coordinating a multifaceted response to hundreds of emergencies across every state and territory.
The reality is, the situation will continue for months, compounded by drought and extreme heat. The money that has been raised for the fund will continue to ensure our emergency teams are resourced and ready for wherever they’re needed.
We commit that all funds donated to Disaster Relief and Recovery from July 2019 will be used only for our emergencies work in Australia.
We’re investing in a tailored recovery program over three years or more.
Disaster recovery can take years and is unique to each individual. Recovery includes regaining a sense of control and having a plan; rebuilding or replacing what’s lost, where possible; and finding your way to a ‘new normal’ and a life you have good reason to value.
The right support can go a long way. That includes cash assistance at various points, 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.
That means we need to retain some funds for a minimum three-year recovery program in affected communities, so that when the world’s attention turns away, people are not left behind. We are committed to working with those communities to shape how those funds can support them.
Our recovery program will address all these things in ways that are unique to each community. Needs assessments by Red Cross and other agencies will shape it. We will use volunteers and employ key staff to ensure a program of this scale is run well.
More cash grants to affected people and communities are critical, so that people can make choices that are right for them and their families. We will announce further financial assistance as we progress.
No more than 10 cents in the dollar will go to necessary support costs.
There are real and necessary costs to our response, including getting emergency grants to people quickly and securely, preventing fraud, collecting and analysing the information we need, and complying with the legal obligations of handling funds.
Every agency has these costs. Sometimes we are fortunate enough that they are covered by government, or by generous corporate donors, as was the case in our Aussie Farmers Appeal. But no one could respond to an emergency without them.
We have committed to keeping these support costs under 10 cents in the dollar, and we do not expect to spend anywhere near this amount. We are already keeping these costs down through support of many companies and our own volunteers and will continue to do all we can to keep them as low as possible. In some previous disasters we have kept them as low at 4%. We want every dollar donated to go as far as possible to help people.
We’ll keep you informed of our plans and spending at every step.
We are using this money with integrity and we’ll show you how and why we’re using it. We want you to see your generosity at work. Above all, we want it to make a genuine difference to the recovery of those most impacted by the bushfires.
Thank you for all you have done.