Our country is facing devastating and widespread bushfires. This requires us to do everything possible to fight fires, protect lives, and ensure communities are getting the support they need. 1. DEPLOYING THE AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE FORCE The Australian Defence Force is providing boots on the ground, planes in the sky and ships at sea, to support the fire fighting and recovery effort. For the first time in our history, the Government has enacted a compulsory call-out of the ADF Reserve Brigades. (This is in effect until 7 February).This is providing up to 3,000 Reserves personnel, including with skills in engineering, medical, logistics and transport support. This is in addition to the more than 3,000 full-time ADF personnel.They are assisting with essential tasks, like disposing of carcasses, reopening roads, restoring essential services and delivering emergency food, water and fodder.HMAS Choules evacuated around 1,300 people from Mallacoota. The Navy’s largest ship, HMAS Adelaide joined HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore in supporting the evacuation and relief effort. The Adelaide has 400 crew, including medical staff, and 300 tonnes of emergency relief supplies. The Government is deploying additional ADF air lift and reconnaissance aircraft. This includes Chinook helicopters, C-17 Globemasters, C-130 Hercules and C-27 Spartans. All Defence bases between Brisbane and Adelaide are providing temporary transit accommodation and support for those displaced by the fires. 2. ADDITIONAL WATERBOMBING The Government immediately responded to a request for additional waterbombing aircraft, by providing $20 million to lease four extra planes. This is in addition to $26 million already provided to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, which provides specialised firefighting aircraft. 3. IMMEDIATE FINANCIAL HELP The Government is providing immediate financial support to fire-affected communities. This includes a non-means tested Disaster Recovery Payment of $1,000 for eligible adults and $800 for children. A further $40 million is being provided to charities like the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul. A Disaster Recovery Allowance is available to provide short-term income support for those who have lost income. Over 54,000 claims for Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments and Disaster Recovery Allowance have been processed (as at 22 January).Mobile Service Teams from Services Australia are located within bushfire affected communities and are offering assistance. Recovery grants are available for small businesses, community organisations and primary producers to help communities recover. People in bushfire affected communities will get a two month extension on their tax returns. Welfare compliance activities are being suspended for two months. For this financial year, families can still claim the Child Care Subsidy even if their work, studying or volunteer hours have been impacted by the bushfires.4. REBUILDING COMMUNITIES The Australian Government is providing $2 billion over two years to help rebuild communities and livelihoods. This $2 billion investment is on top of existing disaster relief payments. If more is required, it will be provided. A National Bushfire Recovery Agency, led by former AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin, will co-ordinate the rebuilding effort. These funds will cover things like restocking farms, rebuilding roads and telecommunications, mental health support, attracting back tourists, small business support, protecting wildlife and restoring local environments. This will ensure we hit the ground running when fires have passed. 5. HELPING SMALL BUSINESSGrants of up to $50,000 (tax free) are available for small businesses and organisations that have sustained damage as a result of the fires. In addition, loans of up to $500,000 will be offered for businesses that have suffered significant asset loss or a significant loss of revenue. These are repayment and interest free for two years. After this, the loans would have a reduced interest rate (half the government bond rate, currently around 0.6%). A dedicated Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line is being established. 6. HELPING FARMERS The Government is providing grants of up to $75,000 for farming businesses in fire-affected regions. This will help fund essentials like fodder and water. It can help to rebuild fencing or hire equipment such as water pumps, irrigation systems and generators. 60 more rural financial counsellors and support workers are being funded. This is on top of the 120 counsellors already located in agricultural communities. 7. SUPPORTING TOURISMA $76 million tourism recovery package is being rolled out to encourage domestic and international visitors to return. This will help protect jobs, small businesses and local economies.8. ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION An initial investment of $50 million will support work to protect wildlife. The Government is partnering with scientists, ecologists, communities and land managers to plan the longer-term recovery. 9. SUPPORT FOR MENTAL HEALTH In fire affected communities, an initial $76 million is being provided for mental health funding. This includes free counselling sessions, extra Medicare and tele-health consultation and more headspace services. An extra 25 Beyond Blue liaison officers and supporting clinicians are being funded to work with local schools and early childhood services. Extra funding is available for the school chaplaincy program. 10. SUPPORT FOR VOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTERS The Government is funding financial support of up to $6,000 for eligible emergency services volunteers who have lost income while fighting fires. Public servants who are emergency services volunteers are getting additional paid leave. We thank the companies which have matched this. KEY CONTACTS In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000) Emergency radio broadcasts: ABC and commercial local radio New South Wales NSW RFS: www.rfs.nsw.gov.au and www.fire.nsw.gov.au Twitter: @NSWRFS NSW Bush Fire Information Line: 1800 679 737 NSW Government Disaster Welfare Assistance Line: 1800 018 444 Victoria Victoria Country Fire Authority: www.cfa.vic.gov.au VicEmergency Hotline: 1800 226 226 Twitter: @VICemergency VIC Emergency Relief Assistance Payments:https://emergency.vic.gov.au/relief/#financial_assistance South Australia SA CFS: www.cfs.sa.gov.au Bushfire Information Hotline: 1800 362 361 SA Government Recovery Hotline: 1800 302 787 Twitter: @CFSAlerts Queensland Queensland Fire and Emergency Services: www.qfes.qld.gov.au Twitter: @QldFES Australian Government financial assistance If you’ve been affected by the bushfires and need to claim assistance you can call Services Australia on 180 22 66. For more information, go to: www.humanservices.gov.au/disaster When it is safe, Mobile Services Centres will head into affected regions to assist.