Bushfire Relief: What You Need To Know

A new allocation of government bushfire recovery relief funding for local communities is now available to help people still experiencing hardship from the devastating 2019-20 summer bushfires in the New South Wales, Victoria, and Australian Captial Territory. 

Recently, we announced that Communities@Work has been allocated funding from the Australian Government to help people experience hardship following the 2019-20 bushfires in ACT, NSW, or VIC. Bushfire relief is hence an addition to our crisis support and emergency relief services to support people currently staying in Canberra or the surrounding ACT region. Find out more about how you can apply for this support after bushfires here. 

Being a local community organisation, a key focus of Communities@Work is supporting those in need, particularly in Canberra and the ACT. We assist over 20,000 vulnerable people every year providing a range of supports, including food, clothing, temporary housing accommodation, and crisis support – and now bushfire relief.

Applying for Bushfire Relief and Assistance

Communities@Work is keen to distribute our bushfire relief funds as quickly as possible to help people with their recovery following the 2019-20 bushfires. 


  • You’re currently residing in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) for a minimum of 2 days AND;
  • have been affected by bushfires in the ACT, NSW or Victoria regions AND;
  • are experiencing financial hardship

Ruth Zanker, spearheading the bushfire relief program explains, “this new funding will be used to help people who are currently living in the ACT, been affected by bushfires in the ACT, NSW or Victoriaand are experiencing financial hardship. You might have moved here because of the fires or were temporarily displaced and are currently living with family or friends. Please reach out if you need supportWe want to help you with your recovery journey and make life easier for you. 

Communities@Work Director of Social Programs Ruth Zanker, with another staff member, at the Relief and Evacuation Centre earlier this year.

It is also important to know that help means different things to different people. It can take any form, depending on the needs of the individual or family who has requested for the support. Communities@Work will tailor a support or assistance package based on a discussion of needs.

We will talk with you, look at what supports you currently have and work out where the gaps are. We’ll then create a tailored support package based on your individual needs.

“Even if you’re unsure whether you’re eligible, get in touch with us,” urges Ruth. 

Assistance during the bushfire crisis

The 2019–20 Australian bushfire season was one of the worst ever in the country’s history. Between October 2019 and February 2020, bushfires ravaged many parts of Australia, burning an estimated 18.6 million hectares, shrouding cities in toxic smoke, destroying over 5,900 buildings and killing 34 peopleIt’s estimated that more than one billion animals were killed and some of Australia’s unique endangered species may be driven to extinction.  

In January 2020, the Australian Government unveiled a two billion dollar National Bushfire Recovery Fund. Part of this fund includes an allocation to bushfire relief funding – $650 million boost to local communities announced in May 2020 to accelerate locally-led bushfire recovery

Eighteen months before the bushfires, the ACT Government set up the Social Recovery Network, partnering with us – Communities@Work – and several other local community organisations such as Vinnies, Red Cross, The Salvation Army and Anglicare, to develop plans for the setup and running of bushfire evacuation and relief centres should they ever be needed.   

Recovery Network_DicksonCollege_Communities@Work_Bushfire Relief

Communities@Work with the Social Recovery Network at the Relief Centre earlier this year.

That planning and foresight allowed us and the other members of the Network to quickly and efficiently set up bushfire relief and recovery centre at Dickson College in early January this year. The centre played a vital role in supporting people who were fleeing fires along the South Coast, as well as those escaping the smoke pollution shrouding Canberra.  

Several of the people supported at Dickson College were transiting through the ACT – either escaping the flame or heading home to see what remained. Others had temporarily moved to Canberra while they sorted out their longer-term plans. Over 16 days in January, Communities@Work helped out at the relief centre, which supported 426 people with more than $31,000 worth of assistance, including accommodation, hot meals, food and clothing.  

Later that month, when the Orroral Valley Fire hit Namadgi National Park south of Canberra, burning 80% of the Park, the ACT Government set up a second evacuation and relief centre at Erindale College in Wanniassa. This centre provided safety, support, cooked meals, accommodation assistance and reassurance to over 238 Canberrans and others affected by the bushfires. 

Supporting the local community affected by bushfires

As well as supporting the relief centresthroughout January, Communities@Work helped coordinate donations for Slabs for Heroes and worked with local councils to support Braidwood firefighters, alongside numerous individuals and community organisations in the bushfire relief effort. We also called for donations for our own community food pantries, to be able to provide adequate food and hygiene items to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the Canberra community, during the bushfire crisis. 

“It was so heart-warming to see how our community pulled together in times of need,” said Ruth Zanker, Director of Social Programs. “It made you proud to be a Canberran.” 

Aware that many people and animals were suffering, and wanting to do something to help them, children at Communities@Work’s Out of School Hours Care (before and after school care) services set up their own bushfire appeal fundraisers during February to help people and wildlife affected by the fires.  

Bushfire Relief_Supported by Children_Communities@Work

Children at Communities@Work Out of School Hours Care services set up their own fundraisers to support the bushfire appeals.  

“We were so proud of the children,” said Communities@Work Director of Children’s Services, Kellie Stewart. “They drove the appeals: from selecting the cause and creating the promotional signs to staffing the tables and collecting the money. Our educators work hard to instil in the children the importance of helping others less fortunate, so it was lovely to see those values in action.” 

Ruth agrees. “Our organisation has a long and proud history of supporting people in need. That philosophy and value is embedded in our mission, our programs, and services, and forms the heart of everything we do. 

Register to receive the bushfire support here and we’ll be in touch. 

Scroll To Top