What now for fire-affected communities and how you can help

Bendigo, 14 November 2019: As the impacts of the bushfires burning across Australia become more apparent, the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal is urging those wanting to support the affected communities to remember that recovery takes time, and support will be needed for many years to come.

A satellite image of the fires

The Foundation has supported rural, regional and remote communities in their recovery from natural disasters since 2006, delivering over $19 million in grant funding.

CEO Natalie Egleton says that while there is no doubt that support is needed to help people get through the immediate aftermath, FRRR knows that community needs will emerge and evolve over the months and years to come.

"Unfortunately, by the time people get back on their feet personally, there is often no funding available to support recovery efforts at a whole-of-community level. That's why we have launched the FRRR Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund," Egleton explained.

"Donations made now will be invested, and the returns used to provide funds for community-led initiatives when disaster-affected communities are ready for support. This also means that one donation can have an impact for years to come."

Grants from the Fund will support the needs that often emerge 12-18 months after a disaster event – such as support for fatigued volunteer leaders, repairing vital community infrastructure or ensuring psychological support is available. Thanks to FRRR's unique tax status, they can also help communities rebuild their local economy.

Egleton says that one of the hallmarks of the Fund is that grants will be flexible.

"The effect of the fires will not be the same in any two communities, so it's critical that when the time is right, local leaders can access funds for whatever is most important to their community.

"For some, that might be enhancing the local emergency shelter, or implementing a UHF radio system so that people can stay in touch during the next emergency. For others, it will be for support to relieve volunteer fatigue, and in other places, the most significant need might be for psychological support.

Supporting communities to prepare

"We also know that being prepared is critical as disasters become more frequent and severe," says Egleton.

"Communities that are engaged and understand the emergency management system and the community's role in this are better equipped at the time of a disaster. So too are those that have strong social capital.

"That's why the fund will also support community emergency plans, community leadership programs, and practical training programs such as chainsaw handling, mental health first aid and governance for not-for-profit organisations," says Egleton. "These kinds of initiatives help communities take control in the event of a disaster."

Not just a 'rural' problem

Egleton says that while rural, regional and remote communities bear the brunt of natural disasters, a disaster doesn't only affect rural communities. A Deloitte Access Economics report from 2017 found that the total economic cost of natural disasters is growing and will reach $39 billion per year by 2050. These costs include significant, and often long-term, social impacts, including death and injury, and has implications on employment, education, community networks, health and wellbeing for our nation.

FRRR encourages donors to consider splitting their contribution, directing some toward more immediate support, and contributing to FRRR's Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund, which will have a longer-term impact.

Contributions to FRRR's Disaster Resilience & Recovery Fund are tax-deductible and can be made securely online at any time via the FRRR website.

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