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Bushfire support and disbursement | Supporting people through disasters the COVID-safe way | World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

31 July 2020

Bushfire support and disbursement  

Hi everyone,

I hope you’re keeping well. I wanted to update you on how we’re tracking with our bushfire support and disbursement from the bushfire funds which were so generously donated by so many in Australia and overseas.  

To date we have spent or disbursed $153.502 million. This includes $139.603 million paid in 10,292 grants provided to 4,706 people, as well as the cost of our teams on the ground supporting communities during this financial year ($5 million), our recovery program so far ($1 million) and administrative support costs, currently at less than 4c in the dollar for each dollar donated. We have received a total of $227 million in donations with additional funds still coming in.

We are currently developing a new grant for people impacted by bushfires who continue to experience financial hardship, which we aim to launch in September. This is a needs-based grant where individual or household assistance would be determined based on assessment of needs across a range of themes including accommodation and housing, medical expenses, family and livelihood support, living expenses and crisis support such as domestic violence. We will work with our emergency services and recovery teams to ensure this grant reaches those who have the least capacity to recover and those who may not have had the technology or support to seek financial assistance due to COVID-19 restrictions impacting our ability to be on the ground in recent months.

Amidst all these, we are listening to our recovery workers to understand the needs that are still emerging. We are continuing to improve in the areas of recovery coordination, communication and managing fatigue and emotional wellbeing of our recovery workers. We’ve also had positive feedback from residents who told us that the grants have instilled feelings of hope and are a reminder that they are not alone.

Our recovery teams have been working hard with many outreach activities taking place across all bushfire impacted areas including face to face outreach events and individual telephone outreach calls. To date we have supported 2,277 people through outreach, had 1,929 webinar attendees across 18 sessions, and interacted with 86 people who attended three of our virtual community forums. We also recruited 16 new Disaster Recovery Mentors for our Disaster Recovery Advisors and Mentors Australia program, increasing our mentor cohort to 25.

These have been greatly appreciated and we are finding many people are really in need of support but are traumatised and have not yet reached out for help so we have been able to provide them with assistance and also connect them in with other providers such as mental health support.  

In NSW one of the main needs that is emerging from our discussions with individuals who have lost their homes in the fires and with community leaders is the need for temporary housing to enable people to live on their properties whilst they are waiting to rebuild their houses and low cost housing and transitional housing for people who need to replace their homes but are in financial hardship. This is a pressing issue at the moment with cold and wet winter conditions making life particularly hard for people living in caravans on their properties.   

Red Cross is playing a key role through the provision of up to $60,000 per household through our bushfire grants and we are working closely with the NSW Government and other agencies to try and address the housing issue more at a state-wide level. We advocated strongly for a NSW Government Roundtable on this issue and I’m pleased to say that Poppy Brown (NSW & ACT Director) and Andrew Coghlan (Head of Emergencies) are meeting this week with the NSW Deputy Premier and two senior NSW Ministers together with Resilience NSW to discuss this and other key challenges in supporting community recovery.

This is another example of the important role Red Cross plays in responding to emergencies through ensuring that the voices of individuals impacted by the fires are heard and using our deep experience in responding to many previous disasters to work with Government at all levels to design and implement solutions.

Supporting people through disasters the COVID-safe way

Whether it is a flood, bushfire or heatwave, immediate responses include having safe places like evacuation and relief centres for people to go to. It includes providing various assistance or support in person. This is difficult to achieve in the context of COVID-19 and for the safety of everyone, the need to maintain physical distancing wherever possible.

Despite only recently releasing our Australian Bushfires Report, we are working on being ready to respond to further potential disasters. The potential is real and it is important we are prepared. In April, we saw Tropical Cyclone Harold impacting thousands of people in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu. In the last month, Japan experienced flooding and landslides requiring more than 200,000 people to evacuate. We’ve also just seen flooding in the south coast of NSW and have worked with Resilience NSW to assist people in cars and find local alternative accommodation, instead of operating through an evacuation centre. More needs to be done to get ready given COVID.

In getting ready, we are reaching out to and learning from our colleagues. French Red Cross have been sharing resources for heatwaves that they have updated to account for COVID-19. Monaco Red Cross and Hong Kong Red Cross are also looking into this. We are also learning from Fiji Red Cross and its experience with Tropical Cyclone Harold. From this we are reimagining and looking for alternatives to things like evacuation centres, ways to step up our telephone/digital based support, and in how we get communities prepared for the same.

Humanitarian & Sustainable Development Initiative Global Online Academy 

The experts from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, Beijing Normal University and World Health Organization have jointly organised the Humanitarian and Sustainable Development Initiative (HDI) program which kicks off today.

HDI 2019 admitted 24 fellows from universities and operational organisations from seven countries, who exchanged with 18 top experts from humanitarian and development sectors during the two-week intensive summer academy in Beijing, in June 2019. In the following months, the fellows designed and implemented two research projects in Sichuan on humanitarian and development issues. 

This year, HDI adapted their strategies due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, globally and launched a Massive Online Open Course to engage students and humanitarian practitioners from different walks of life. In this realm, IFRC alongside with other technical partners and co-organisers are entrusted with three courses to run independently. That means anyone can attend.

These courses are:

  • Course 1:  Role of Communities in Managing Public Health Emergencies
  • Course 2: Community Based Health and First Aid approach for empowering communities; and
  • Course 3: Community Engagement and Accountability

They will be online starting yesterday until 30 September 2020 and the students and the practitioners can undertake these courses at their convenience.

There will also be interactive sessions with the subject experts from within our wide network of trained Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers. If you're interested to join, you can enroll here.

Hiroshima Day - Commemorating the 75th Anniversary

The atomic bombs that exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945 caused unspeakable suffering and devastation. For the last 75 years, humanity has lived under the dark shadow of these uniquely horrific and terrifying tools of war.

We are not prepared to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe that would occur if nuclear weapons were to be used again.

We’re working together with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Australia to bring you a series of webinars to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Join us as we honour the memory of the hundreds of thousands of victims of these atomic bombings, and call on all States to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

It’s hard to imagine that in this day and age, we are still dealing with slavery and trafficking of people.

But modern slavery happens in Australia.

Over the last 10 years, we have supported over 440 people affected by slavery, forced marriage and trafficking. 

Yesterday, on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons we joined with the UN to thank our frontline workers and first responders to human trafficking.  

Meet the people behind the scenes dedicated to supporting people who have been trafficked.

Self-care, mindfulness and meditation

I hope you’re taking some time off for yourselves as we go through challenging times. If you’re in Victoria, it is now compulsory to put on your masks when you’re out and about and are unsure if you can keep to safe distancing.

There are also mindfulness and meditation sessions that are available in the coming weeks – look out for them in your inbox. I strongly encourage you to attend these sessions, they have helped to keep me calm and refresh myself. I'm also planning to have a virtual yoga retreat with my sister and brother-in-law and spend some time to relax. They are putting the program together and we’ll use Zoom. Should be fun! The type of fun you have when you can’t really leave your house.

And if you need someone to talk to, remember that you can always reach out to your manager or use our confidential support through our employee and volunteer assistance provider Converge International if this would be of benefit to you. Please call 1300 687 327 (1300 287 432 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hotline) or email eap@convergeinternational.com.au.  

Take care and chat to you soon.
Judy