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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Support to bushfire affected communities

Bushfire Image Credit: AAP

The 2019-20 bush fires impacting Australia are unprecedented and present an enormous challenge to devastated communities.

The Federal Government is working with state and territory authorities in response to the bushfire crisis and a key part of this is linking people in with the services they need.

To further this effort, we have collected the following resources and links to assist people to access the various supports being provided by the Australian Government.

Support on the ground

Services Australia has mobilised and rapidly deployed Mobile Service Teams and Mobile Service Centres to get support to bushfire affected communities in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

NIAA staff are joining those teams and centres where there are Indigenous populations that could benefit from additional support.

Indigenous Australians may also contact our local regional offices for assistance.

Mental health

As part of the Government’s $76 million package for distress counselling and mental health support, those affected by the bushfires can get up to 10 free counselling sessions. These can be accessed by calling Services Australia on 180 22 66, or visit the Primary Health Networks website.

Immediate mental health support is also available from the following hot lines:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

Broader health information is available from the Department of Health.

Job seekers and Centrelink payments

The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business may put measures in place to protect affected job seekers and participants from inappropriate payment suspensions. During this time, changes may also be made to Mutual Obligation Requirements.

People can discuss their personal circumstances by contacting the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business National Customer Service Line by phone on 1800 805 260 or email at Alternatively, they can contact their local Centrelink office.

The Government has also suspended Centrelink debt recovery and mutual obligations for people in affected communities for an initial two months.

More details are available from the Department of Human Services Bushfire page.

Cashless Debit Card

Cashless Debit Card participants that are in an area impacted by bushfires that need assistance to access their funds can call the Cashless Debit Card Hotline on 1800 252 604 or the Indue Contact Centre on 1800 710 265. More details from the Department of Social Services Bushfire information and support page.

IBA Customers and Indigenous Corporations

The Australian Government’s Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) is providing a $2,000 bushfire crisis grant for home loan and business finance customers directly impacted by the recent bushfires. IBA is also temporarily suspending loan repayments for those affected and will assist customers who need help with insurance claims. This assistance can be accessed through the Indigenous Business Australia’s Assistance for bushfire affected customers page.

The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) has established an emergency response grant for any Indigenous corporation whose property has been directly affected by the recent bushfires.

A grant of up to $20,000 will be available to assist Indigenous corporations to immediately secure and clean up damaged properties.

The ILSC will also make available a grant to assist Indigenous land management groups and contractors assisting the vital recovery efforts with much needed equipment.

Indigenous corporations should contact the ILSC on 1800 818 490 or, or visit their bushfire response web page. ILSC staff will be available to take enquiries seven days a week, from 9am to 8pm (AEDT).

The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) has provided a reporting extension for corporations in bushfire affected areas. Around 160 corporations now have until 31 March 2020 to submit their 2018-19 reports.

Community information

Good sources of information online include local Council social media accounts, the pages of local Members of Parliament (both State and Federal), and local brigades of the relevant fire authority.

Local ABC radio stations also provide regular updates and important information. You can find your local ABC radio station on ABC's Coverage and Frequency Search

The Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Services has also established the ‘South Coast Fires Indigenous Response’ page to coordinate efforts in southern New South Wales. Their pages are:

Charities and donations

There are a number of online campaigns collecting money for bushfire recovery including some specifically aimed at helping Indigenous Australians.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency is not in a position to endorse any particular charity, online platform, or individual collecting for bushfire relief.

Cash donations are the most helpful offer of assistance for affected communities, but people are encouraged to investigate the person or organisation they are considering supporting.

Unfortunately there are some scammers seeking to exploit people’s generosity. People can confirm a charity’s registration status through the Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity register.

National Bushfire Recovery Agency

On 6 January, the Prime Minister announced the National Bushfire Recovery Agency (NBRA) to lead and coordinate a national response to rebuilding communities affected by bushfires.

They will work closely with state and local government, the not-for-profit sector and industry as well as with communities to identify and deliver local solutions to local issues.

NIAA will work with NBRA so our funding complements the projects financed by the $2 billion Recovery Fund.

The NBRA has valuable information on the recovery efforts as well as a comprehensive list of contacts for Government services.