Visa concessions for backpackers working in bushfire recovery

The Australian Government has announced that working holiday makers ‘backpackers’ will be able to count paid or volunteer bushfire recovery work as part of ‘specified work’, required in order to apply for second or third year working holiday visas.  Backpackers who assist bushfire recovery efforts can work for an additional 6 months (total of 12 months) with the same employer or organisation. Further details are yet to be outlined by the government. Workplace Relations will keep members abreast of future details. Further information can be found from the Department of Home Affairs

Service NSW one-stop shop for bushfire assistance

Service NSW now has Customer Care specialists who will operate like case managers and connect bushfire affected customers with services and support information. This includes information on all available assistance being offered by local councils and the state and federal governments. This service can be accessed using the existing Service NSW number 13 77 88. You can also request a call from a Bushfire Customer Care Specialist. Support offered by the NSW Government includes such services as: motor vehicle stamp duty relief; free replacement of documents; and council rates relief.

Australian Government Bushfire Support Package for Business

The Federal Government has announced that top-up grants of up to $50,000 will be available to businesses that have lost significant assets or had a major dip in revenue. The government will deliver $3.5 million to establish the Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line as well as to fund 10 additional financial counsellors with the ability to provide advice to around 100 small businesses a day.  For more information view the media release here. 

Tourism recovery package

The Government has pledged $76 million towards a tourism recovery package to protect jobs, small businesses and local economies affected by the bushfires. For more information view the press release here. 

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Allowance

Disaster Recovery Allowance is a short term payment to help you if a declared disaster directly affects your income. You can get it for a maximum of 13 weeks. It’s payable from the date you lose income as a direct result of the bushfires. For more information visit the Department of Human Services website.

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment

The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment is a one-off payment to help you if a declared disaster significantly affects you. It’s not for minor damage or inconvenience. If you’re eligible you will get: $1,000 per adult and $400 for each child younger than 16. Read more on the Australian Government’s Department of Human Services website.

NSW Government Disaster Relief Grants

NSW Government Disaster Relief Grants are available for eligible individuals and families whose homes and essential household contents have been damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster. To be eligible for this grant you must: be a low-income earner and meet an income assets test; demonstrate that the affected home is your principal place of residence; not be covered by insurance; demonstrate that the damage was caused by the disaster; and lodge the application within four months of the disaster occurring. Read here for more information, including eligibility criteria.  

NSW Government Disaster Recovery Grant

Disaster recovery grants of up to $15,000 are now available to small businesses and not-for-profit organisations in LGAs affected by the NSW bushfires that have occured from 31 August 2019. To find out if you are eligible view the LGAs affected visit the RRA website.

Volunteer Firefighter Payment

The Volunteer Firefighter Payment is for eligible volunteer firefighters who are self-employed or employed by small and medium businesses, and have lost income. Payments of up to $300 per day, with a total cap of $6000, will be available in the 2019–2020 financial year. The payments are tax-free and not means-tested. More information is available on the Service NSW website.

Red Cross Emergency grants

Emergency grants are open across Australia to people whose primary place of residence has beendestroyed or rendered permanently uninhabitable as the result of bushfires from 1 July 2019 to 28 February 2020. The Red Cross are providing Bereavements Payments, Emergency Grants, Repair Grants, and Injury Grants. Grants will be open until 30 April 2020 (extended until 30 June). For more information visit the Australian Red Cross website or call 1800 733 276.

Salvation Army Disaster Support

The Salvation Army offers a range of services and assistance measures to help people who have been impacted by bushfires including: Hardship Recovery Grants, Significant Loss Grants, Total Loss Grants; Emotional wellbeing and support services; and information, referrals and advice. More information is available on the Salvation Army’s website or call 1300 662 217.

St Vincent De Paul

St Vincent de Paul are offering Financial Hardship grants and Significant House Damage grants. Vinnies can also provide: food and grocery vouchers; clothing and bedding; toiletries and essentials; fuel vouchers; emotional support; and referrals to other services. Find out more by calling 13 18 12 or visit the St Vincent de Paul website.


Anglicare can provide trained volunteer and assistance in the form of: food; cash cards for utilities; support to pay bills; access to clothing; financial; trauma and grief counselling; and support to navigate assistance.

Bushfire Recovery Access Program – Up to 10 Mental Health Treatment Services

From 17 January, the Department of Health is funding Medicare benefits for up to 10 mental health treatment services if: You or your family have been impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires; You’re a first responder or emergency management employee or volunteer who worked during the 2019-20 bushfires. The Department of Humas Services website has more information.

Further counselling support:

Bushfire support for people with disability

IDEAS’ eBility Bushfire Relief website provides a Temporary Bushfire Crisis Relief Exchange site for People with Disability to donate or find accessible disability equipment in good working order and related non-perishable consumables.  The items ­– such as wheelchairs, walkers and scooters – have been donated or lent out for free. People in bushfire areas can also request wanted items. Read more on the eBility website.

NDIS Bushfire Information and Support

The bushfires are impacting a number of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants, their families, carers and providers. Detailed information for participants and providers affected by bushfires is available on the NDIS and disaster response page. NDIA staff are joining the Department of Human Services Mobile Service Centres and Mobile Service Teams deployed across New South Wales and Victoria. Locations are listed in the ‘NDIS assistance in bushfire affected areas.

NDIA staff providing mobile services

NDIA staff are joining the Department of Human Services Mobile Service Centres and Mobile Service Teams deployed across New South Wales and Victoria. Locations are listed in the ‘NDIS assistance in bushfire affected areas’ news item. 

Legal help for victims of natural disasters

If you’ve been affected by the recent bushfires and need legal help the new free Disaster Response Legal Service NSW, which will be run by Legal Aid NSW, can help. You can receive advise with issues such as: your home has been damaged by fire (help is available to both owner and tenant); you have insurance or repair problems; your job has been affected by the fires; or you need help renegotiating credit commitments due to loss of income from the fires. Call the Disaster Response Legal Service NSW on 1800 801 529 or go to the Legal Aid NSW website for more information.

Primary Producer Special Disaster grants

The Department of Primary Industries has launched a Bushfire Hub to help producers find information on emergency response, financial assistance, bushfire recovery, and health and wellbeing. Access the Bushfire Hub here.
Up to $75,000 is available to primary producers to assist with costs including fencing, repairing critical infrastructure, treating or burying livestock, buying fodder, and for orchardists, replacing netting and trees.

AgriWebb assistance for bushfire-affected producers

The AgriWebb Helping Hand Project is connecting farmers who can help, with farmers who have been affected by bushfire. Farmers can register here to assist other farmers, while those affected by bushfires can register for help – whether they need labour, agistment, feed or machinery.

Ex-Gratia Disaster Recovery Allowance

Support for New Zealanders who can show they have experienced a loss of income as a direct result of the bushfires. Ex-gratia Disaster Recovery Allowance is a short term payment to help you if a declared disaster directly affects your income. You can get it for a maximum of 13 weeks. Ex-gratia Disaster Recovery Allowance is a taxable payment. More information can be found on the Department of Human Services website.

Ex-Gratia Disaster Recovery Payment

Support for eligible New Zealanders adversely affected by the bushfires. The ex-gratia Disaster Recovery Payment is a one-off payment to help you if a declared disaster significantly affects you. It’s not for minor damage or inconvenience. You can choose to get this payment in 2 instalments if you prefer. If you’re eligible you will get: $1,000 per adult; $1,000 per partner or dependent adult; and $400 for each child under 16 years of age. The Department of Human Services website has more information.

Australian Financial Complaints Authority Bushfire Support Line

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority Bushfire Support Line 1800 337 444 can assist people affected by bushfires with complaints about financial products and services. For example, if you find yourself in a dispute with your insurer or financial provider about a claim or request for assistance. 

NAB Disaster Relief fund

NAB is providing grants of $2,000 to customers who have lost their homes to bushfire, to help cover costs such as temporary accommodation, food and clothing. They are also providing support for NAB business and agribusiness customers directly impacted by bushfires to help restart or reopen and cover the cost of damaged property, equipment, fencing – and for loss of stock or livestock. More information is available on the NAB website.

Westpac Bushfire Fund Disaster Relief Packages

The Westpac Bushfire Fund includes:  $500,000 in grants to immediately support customers and employees whose properties have been destroyed or damaged. Grants of up to $2000 can be accessed to help cover temporary accommodation, food and clothing; $300,000 to state-based volunteer fire services to continue to support the emergency workers on the front line; $250,000 to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) to provide grants to impacted communities to support recovery and rebuild efforts; $100,000 to the Victoria Bushfire Appeal; and $350,000 for the rebuilding and recovery support. Read here more information on the Westpac Bushfire fund.

Westpac Disaster Relief Packages

This package includes support for Westpac customers that can include grants up to $2000, deferring loan and credit repayments, and emergency funds and accommodation for Westpac Home and Contents insurance customers. Business customers with existing loans can request loan restructuring without incurring fees and business customers with merchant facilities are eligible to receive assistance. Affected credit card customers may apply to defer repayments; Customers wishing to purchase replacement goods may apply for a personal loan at a discounted interest rate with no establishment fee; Westpac will waive interest rate adjustments for affected customers wishing to withdraw term deposits; and customers experiencing severe hardship may also be offered a halt on all interest accrual on unsecured credit products.

The Disaster Relief Package has been extended to support volunteer firefighters active in fighting the current bushfires across NSW, Victoria & South Australia and offers financial assistance to affected customers including:  Home loan repayment deferral for up to 3 months and interest waivers, fee cancellations and term extensions. For more information on Westpac’s Disaster Relief Package visit Westpac’s website.    

CommBank Bushfire Recovery Grants

Up to $50,000 grants available to assist the longer term recovery of organisations directly affected by the bushfires. Community organisations, fire services, schools, sporting clubs and non-government organisations in a bushfire affected area are eligible to apply. More information can be cound on the CommBank website.

ANZ Bushfire Relief Package

ANZ customers affected by bushfires in a disaster-declared area are encouraged to visit their local branch if they are able, or to contact their relationship manager to discuss the impact on their business or personal circumstances. Read ANZ’s media release for more information.

Bank First Bushfire Assistance Package

Bank First have a financial assistance package to support customers experiencing hardship. Support available may include: Interest-free loans of up to $5000; The ability to defer loan and credit card repayments; Credit card customers can apply for an emergency credit card limit increase; Waiver of interest rate reduction for term deposit withdrawals prior to maturity; and Waiver of other fees and charges that are derived as a result of the bushfires. Customers with home and contents insured through CGU can also apply for emergency funds and temporary accommodation costs. Bank First’s website contains more information and details.

Bushfire Housing Assistance Service

The NSW Government has established the Bushfire Housing Assistance Service to support people who are temporarily or permanently displaced as a result of the NSW bushfires. The Bushfire Housing Assistance Service can help with: Emergency temporary accommodation; Assistance with a private rental bond and advance rent costs; Sourcing accommodation options from the private rental and short term housing sector, and assistance with sourcing accommodation options in your local communities or in areas where you have family or local networks. The Department of Communities and Justice website has more information.

OAKS Bushfire Accommodation Offer

Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites have announced that selected properties nationwide will offer complimentary rooms for those who have lost their homes. Eligible applicants are entitled to seven nights free accommodation across any Australian property of Minor Hotels, subject to blockout periods which will be notified upon enquiry. Participating properties are located in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia. The offer is redeemable from now until the end of June 2020. More information is available here.

NSW Bushfire Clean-Up

The NSW Government is coordinating the clean-up of NSW residences and businesses impacted by the NSW bushfires. This includes both insured and uninsured properties. Public Works Advisory (PWA), in consultation with property owners, is leading the clean-up effort with insurers, local government and contractors, to ensure that properties are efficiently and safely cleared. Work will begin once firegrounds are declared safe by the Rural Fire Service. Note: The cost of clearing properties will not be deducted from the funds available under insurance policies. More information can be cound on the Service NSW website.

Insurance Council Assistance

The Insurance Council of Australia is operating a 24-hour hotline to help people impacted by the bushfires with general information about claims and recovery. Call 1800 734 621 for assistance on their Catastrophe Hotline.

Insurance Australia Group support

The Insurance Australia Group (IAG) are contacting their customers (including customers of NRMA, CGU, WFI, RACV) within impacted communities to offer emergency accommodation and financial assistance. Call IAG insurers for assistance:

Reece Grant – Bushfire Rebuild projects

The Reece Grant will be directing all funds raised until 30 June 2020 to projects dedicated to Bushfire Rebuild projects. The Reece Group have kick-started this fund with $150,000. If you, or a tradesperson you know is involved in a project to help rebuild in a community that has been affected by the Australian bushfires, you may be eligible to apply. More information is available here.

Bushfire Emergency Response Grant to Assist Indigenous Australians

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. More information can be found on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website.

Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) Bushfire Crisis Support

To assist its business finance and home loan customers directly impacted by the current bushfires through the loss of property or compulsory evacuation, IBA has established a Bushfire Crisis Fund that will provide the following support: Temporary suspension of loan repayments; Access to a $2,000 bushfire crisis grant to cover immediate needs; Assistance with making insurance claims; and further assistance for business customers to be assessed on an individual basis. Indigenous Business Australia has more information on their website.

Telstra Assistance

Telstra customers impacted by bushfires are eligible for relief packages which can include one-off phone credit and free diversion from an affected phone service to another service, regardless of carrier. Volunteer firefighters can also get their mobile phone bills waived for December 2019 and January 2020. Visit the Telstra website for more information.

Optus Assistance

Affected Optus customers are eligible for financial assistance which can include free prepaid credit, bill waivers in extreme cases, and free diversion from an affected phone service to another service, regardless of carrier. Volunteer firefighters can also get their mobile phone bills waived for December 2019 and January 2020.  Read more here.

Optus have further announced the Green Shoots grants program for small business. 2000 grants will be available through the program and will include: A technology pack which includes a complimentary tablet and up to two years Optus mobile plan and/or fixed internet service; Making available our dedicated tech support team based in Australia for small businesses and Optus to extend its staff volunteer programme to enable its staff to support small businesses affected by the bushfires to get back on their feet. For further terms and conditions click here.

Vodaphone’s firefighter offer

Vodafone will waive any mobile network usage charges for all volunteer firefighters for their December 2019 and January 2020 bills. Further details here.

Australian Tax Office Support

For identified impacted postcodes, the ATO will automatically grant deferrals for lodgements and payments due. You, or your agent, don’t need to apply for these deferrals. Taxpayers in impacted postcodes will now have until May 28, 2020 to lodge and pay business activity statements and income tax returns. Businesses that pay their Pay-As-You-Go Instalments quarterly are also allowed to vary these instalments to zero for the December 2019 quarter and claim a refund for any instalments made in the September 2019 quarter. For more information visit the ATO website.

Powershop customer support

Electricity provider Powershop is providing support for customers who have lost their homes, been impacted by the bushfires, and who are volunteer firefighters and SES volunteers. For customers who have lost their homes, Powershop will place all bills on hold until further notice, offer a range of account payment help options, access to their bushfire relief offer and cover any fees associated with connecting energy at new or temporary accommodation. Customers who are volunteer firefighters and SES volunteers are eligible for a one-off saving of $100 to their Powershop electricity account. Visit the Powershop website for more information.

University of Sydney Disaster Relief Bursary

If you are a University of Sydney student who has been directly affected by the recent bushfires and require financial support, you may be eligible for the Disaster Relief Bursary. The value of the bursary is up to $1000 and is a one-off payment. In addition to bursary support we also offer interest free loans. More information can be found on the University of Sydney website.

National Drought and Rural Support

Farm Household Allowance: For farm households experiencing hardship. New assets threshold and lump sum payments up to $12,000.  Check if you are eligible

Rural Financial Counsellors: Helping you find and apply for funds. With an extra $5 million to support increased demand for our free services.  Contact the RFCS

Wellbeing: Services to give you mental and emotional support. Connecting you to the right people to help you.  Find a service

Drought Community Support Initiative: Up to $3,000 to eligible farming households facing hardship due to drought. Managed through selected charities.  Read more about the initiative

Regional Investment Corporation: Loans for farmers and farm business owners in financial need. Limit increased to $2 million.  Find loan options

Tax deductions: Special deductions and other tax support for primary producers. Managed by the Australian Taxation Office.  Check for updates

Pest and Weed Management: Funding measures to manage pest animals and weeds in farm communities.  Current funding priorities

Water infrastructure: Rebates for on-farm water infrastructure. $50 million in funding over 3 years.  How to access rebates

For more information on all of the above grants visit the Department of Agriculture’s website.    

Drought Assistance in NSW

Drought Assistance Fund: The NSW Government is offering a $50,000 interest-free loan to transport stock, fodder and water, genetic banking of breeding herds and installing on-farm fodder and water infrastructure. The loans term is seven years and there are no repayments required in the first two years.

Farm Innovation Fund: The NSW Government is offering a loan scheme for capital works up to a value of $1 million per project for infrastructure works (eg sheds, silos, water storage) to prepare for dry conditions, to build resilience and improve on-farm efficiency.

Regional Investment Corporation Low Interest Loans: The Australian Government is offering low interest loans to help farmers prepare for, manage through and recover from drought.

Animal Welfare Transport Subsidy: The NSW Government is subsidising 50% of eligible costs for the permanent transport of stock off a farm which is facing financial hardship and where livestock are at fat score 2 or below (dairy cattle 3 or below), to a maximum of $20,000 per financial year.

Domestic Water Carting Rebate: A rebate of $2,000 will be provided to assist eligible landholders with the costs of carting water or installing associated infrastructure to support domestic water supplies.

The rebate will apply to landholders who typically access water from regulated rivers for domestic supplies but where flows have now ceased as a drought contingency measure.

Donated Fodder Transport: The NSW Government is covering the cost of transporting donated fodder when transport providers are acting in conjunction with community groups and taking fodder from within NSW to drought-affected properties. One hundred percent of the costs will be covered up to a maximum of $5 per km and up to 1500 km.

Drought Transport Subsidy: The NSW Government’s transport subsidy can be applied to the cost of transporting fodder, water to a property for stock or household (domestic) use, stock to and from agistment, and stock to sale or slaughter. For applications received from 1 July 2019 the subsidy has expanded to include transporting of farm chemicals, fertiliser and seed to farms.

Farm Business Skills Professional Development Program: The NSW Government will subsidise up to 50% of eligible costs for an approved course or activity, with a maximum reimbursement of $5,000 per farmer and $9,000 per farm business.

On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate: The Australian and NSW Governments are offering a rebate to drought affected farmers who invest in urgently-needed on-farm water infrastructure to improve productivity and resilience for horticultural farmers with permanent plantings, or that address animal welfare needs. Farmers will be able to access a 25% rebate up to $25,000 on new purchases and installation costs of water infrastructure projects on-farm across NSW to help them in the current drought and be better prepared for future dry conditions.

The On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate scheme can be applied to new purchases and installation of pipes, water storages and water pumps, de-silting dams, and associated power supplies such as generators.

Skills training for drought affected farmers and businesses: The NSW Government is subsidising skills training for farmers and regional businesses impacted by the drought and looking to transition into new or updated career opportunities.

For more information on all of the above grants and subsidies visit the Department of Primary Industries website