Important information for fire-affected communities

Message from Rebekha Sharkie MP

The Cudlee Creek Bushfire and the Ravine Bushfire on Kangaroo Island have been tragic events with widespread consequences for our community. However, we are a resilient community and I have been heartened by the outpouring of support from people right across Australia.

The following is information about the resources available for fire-affected communities. In the event of a natural disaster, such as bushfire, the Commonwealth provides monetary support to State Governments so they can administer and deliver relief and recovery activities. The Federal Government has made a number of announcements about disaster assistance in recent months and we anticipate more announcements in the future. This means that information about available assistance and the eligibility of this assistance is constantly changing. The information provided here was correct at the time of publication.

I encourage you to refer to the Bushfire Recovery Hotline 1800 302 787 and the Department of Human Services fire recovery website [click here] for the most up-to-date information; and you can always drop into my office at 1/72 Gawler Street, Mount Barker, or call us on 8398 5566. The Commonwealth also has a 180 22 66 Federal Relief Hotline for claims.

You are also welcome to visit the Lobethal Recovery Centre at the Old Woollen Mill, 1 Lobethal Road, Lobethal, to see a range of agency representatives in person. Access to computers and the internet is also provided free of charge at Adelaide Hills Council libraries in Gumeracha and Woodside.

You are also welcome to visit the Kangaroo Island Recovery Centre on Jubilee Avenue in Parndana to see a range of agency representatives in person. You can also call the Recovery Centre on 0438 861 215. Satellite internet is available free of charge at the centre. NBN Co also has free satellite wifi services operating from the Kingscote Football Club and the Western Districts Football Club shelter shed at Gosse.

Australian Government Disaster Recovery

As of 3 February 2020, the Commonwealth had approved 516 Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments (AGDRP) worth $595,600 for residents affected by the Cudlee Creek Bushfire.

The AGDRP is a non-means tested and non-taxed payment of $1,000 for eligible adults and $400 for eligible children. The AGDRP is available to:

  • people whose homes have been lost or directly damaged
  • people whose major assets at their homes - such as sheds, water tanks and
  • cars - worth a cumulative total of $20,000 or more have been destroyed
  • people who have been seriously injured, or are an immediate family
  • member of someone who has lost their life.

The Government will also deliver an extra $400 to families for each child aged under 16 that is eligible for the AGDRP. This payment is in addition to the AGDRP and is not subject to income tax. This additional payment began flowing to new applicants from 20 January 2020. Families with children who have already received the AGDRP need not re-apply as their additional payment has already been processed automatically.

Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA)

  • A short-term (up to 13 weeks) income support payment to assist individuals who have experienced a loss of income as a direct result of the bushfires. Whilst previously included as taxable income, the Australian Government has announced Disaster relief payments being made to individuals and businesses are tax exempt.
  • The Government has substantially simplified the application process for DRA, removing the need for a person to provide extensive evidence to verify their income.

Government Services Disaster Response

Services Australia staff are joining Australian Defence Force personnel in bushfire-affected areas as part of an all of Federal Government effort. More information is available at www.findus.humanservices.gov.au.

Mental Health Support

The best way to get assistance is to call the 180 22 66 hotline.

  • On 12 January 2020, the Australian Government announced the Bushfire Recovery Access Program to deliver immediate and ongoing mental health counselling and support. These supports can be accessed by calling 180 22 66.
  • Services Australia also has social workers in its service centres, MSTs and MSCs that can assist with short-term counselling and referrals to support services.
  • Front line emergency trauma counselling will be available immediately, with up to 10 free sessions for individuals, families and emergency services personnel.
  • Bushfire affected individuals and families, and emergency response personnel will also be eligible to receive Medicare rebates for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions over the next two years.

Clean-up program

The Federal and State Governments have made $14 million available to assist farmers, households and businesses with the clean-up costs for fire damage. This service is in addition to the contractors already working on the ground treating properties confirmed to contain asbestos. State Government is also waiving the solid waste levy for fire-affected waste.  Anyone affected by the bushfires who needs help with the clean-up of debris is encouraged to register their needs through the Green Industries SA website at greenindustries.sa.gov.au/register-your-waste-needs.

Primary Producers

Primary producers may be eligible for grants of up to $75,000 to assist with immediate recovery needs, such as fencing or rubbish removal. Please call PIRSA directly on 1800 931 314 to discuss your eligibility. Applications will remain open until 31 June 2020. Visit  https://www.pir.sa.gov.au/emergency_management/bushfires/2019_bushfire_information/recovery_grants_for_bushfire_affected_communities_in_south_australia for more information.

Small Businesses

Small businesses and non-profit organisations that have sustained damage as a result of the fires may be eligible for grants under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements. Eligible small businesses can claim up to $50,000 to help with clean-up and immediate costs.  Please note the scheme does not cover loss of income. Applications will remain open until 24 July 2020. For details regarding eligibility call Business SA on 8429 3242 or visit

https://business.sa.gov.au/South-Australian-bushfire-recovery/Small-Business-Bushfire-Recovery-Grant

Small Business & Primary Producers Concessional Loans

Concessional loans of up to $500,000 are being made available to eligible small businesses, primary producers and non-profit organisations that have suffered significant asset loss or a significant loss of revenue under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

To register your interest in the concessional loan scheme please visit

https://business.sa.gov.au/South-Australian-bushfire-recovery/Concessional-loans

Telecommunications Cudlee Creek Fire Ground

NBN Co advises that its wireless services are operational in the fire-affected area. NBN Co has announced Bushfire Relief Packages but they are delivered at the discretion of Retail Service Providers (RSPs) and must be applied for through your RSPs before 30 April 2020. Please call my office if you would like more information.

Unfortunately, the fire has caused extensive damage to Telstra’s copper telecommunications network. Technicians are working to restore services. Telstra advises that most services have been restored but work is still being done to fix a number of connections damaged by underground burning, mainly in the Lobethal and Woodside areas. Residents with disconnected landlines are advised to lodge an official fault with their retail service provider (RSP). I am advised that lodging the fault online is the easiest way to record your issue. If you do not have access to the internet, you are welcome to call or visit my office for assistance. Please bring your account details with you. Telstra customers with authorised medical priority assist status can request an interim service such as a satellite phone. Telstra customers who have lost their primary place of residence are also eligible for other assistance including one-off credit arrangements. Please call Telstra on 132 203. Residents with other RSPs may have to negotiate with their provider to request similar assistance.

I have been advised by Telstra and Optus that mobile phone services have been restored in the Cudlee Creek fire ground, with the exception of Mount Torrens where the Telstra base station was extensively damaged and is in the process of being rebuilt. Services are expected to be restored in March. Interim equipment has been set up in the township but the infrastructure is in a valley and this is affecting coverage in the wider area.

Telecommunications Kangaroo Island

I have been advised by Telstra and Optus that mobile phone services are restored to normal service levels. NBN Co has given the same advice for its satellite and wireless services. NBN Co has announced Bushfire Relief Packages but they are delivered at the discretion of Retail Service Providers (RSPs) and must be applied for through your RSPs before 30 April 2020. Please call my office if you would like more information. NBN has fitted community Sky Muster Plus connections at recovery centres at Kingscote Oval and Western Districts Football Club in Gosse. A third satellite installation has been approved for the recovery centre at the Rockpool Café in Stokes Bay and before the end of February.

Unfortunately, the fire has caused extensive damage to Telstra’s copper telecommunications network. While many services have been restored, there remains a number of landline and ADSL services that need repair work in the Cygnet River, Gosse, Karatta, Parndana and Stokes Bay areas. Residents with disconnected landlines are advised to lodge an official fault with their RSP so there is a record of the fault. I am advised that lodging the fault online is the easiest way to record your issue. If you do not have access to the internet, you are welcome to call my office for assistance or you can visit a recovery centre.

Telstra customers with authorised medical priority assist status can request an interim service such as a satellite phone or a fixed voice and data service. Telstra customers who have lost their primary place of residence are also eligible for other assistance including one-off credit arrangements. Please call Telstra on 132 203. Residents with other retail service providers may have to negotiate with their provider to request similar assistance.

Finally, please know that the people of Mayo will stand together during this difficult time and that as your Federal Member I will do everything in my power to advocate on your behalf so we have the resources we need to rebuild better than ever.

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie MP