Emergency Bushfire Relief – Organisations at the Front Line
Monday, 16th February 2009 at 2:35 pm
Federal and State Governments have moved quickly to assure victims of the Black Saturday bushfire tragedy that there will be immediate funds and resources to help rebuild their lives and homes. What does this mean for the Not for Profit sector at the front line?
The tragedy has created an unexpected focus for Volunteering Australia which has stretched its resources to take on a volunteer coordination role in the face of enormous public interest.
VA has taken on the role of coordinating volunteers wanting to help in bushfire ravaged areas, a role it says it never expected to have but says it has stepped up to the plate in the face of this national disaster.
Spokesman, Peters Cocks says VA is co-ordinating all of the volunteer registrations and sending them to Volunteering Victoria to match volunteers with opportunities.
Some 7000 people registered in the first few days.
VA says it didn’t anticipate the size and strength of the public’s response but the challenge was met with the help of its staff especially its IT workers to get the registration system up and operating well.
As the full extent of the bush fire tragedy is revealed the Federal and Victorian Governments have pledged a joint $15 million to relief fund for fire victims. This has resulted in a wave of public generosity reaching more than $45 million in the first few days.
The 2009 Victorian Bushfire Fund is in partnership with the Red Cross. An independent panel made up of community leaders is to oversee the appeal Fund’s operation.
Only days before the devastating fire storm in Victoria, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced as part of its stimulus package that the amount of money given to charities to offer emergency relief will be doubled as part of its plan to counter rising unemployment.
The Government said then it would increase by $80 million the pool of funds distributed to 700 organisations to help people in difficult circumstances pay for necessities such as food, housing and medical expenses and utility bills.
At the time it was announced that the funds will be distributed from March.
But most front line organisations in fire ravaged regions are running their own race when it comes to emergency relief.
The Salvation Army, which was already well involved with the floods in Queensland raised more than $5 million in just 5 days after the start of the bushfires.
A spokesman says more than half of that money was distributed to those in need almost immediately.
Since the devastating Ash Wednesday bushfires more than 20 years ago the availability and use of the Internet to raise funds has made a significant difference to the availability of emergency funds.
Front line agencies describing the public’s response to cash donations has been magnificent and humbling.