Support for bushfire-affected communities

The Australian Government has developed two fact sheets to support children, students and their families as they return to school in 2020. The Support for bushfire-affected school students and families fact sheet lists the range of support available to help with the transition back to school and study. The Back to school and your child’s wellbeing fact sheet contains useful information and resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of children, students and their families impacted by bushfires.

Australian Government targeted initiatives

The Australian Government has announced a series of targeted initiatives to provide education and mental health support to children, students, families and communities affected by the 2019-20 bush-fire crisis.

Schools and early childhood education and care services are central and stabilising forces across communities and provide safe spaces for children to be in times of crisis, need and change.

This is why the Australian Government is providing immediate support to children, students, families and early childhood education and care services and schools impacted by the bushfires.

These measures will help rebuild communities affected by unprecedented bushfires by supporting the physical and mental health of those affected, as well as supporting the economic recovery of impacted areas.

The Government has commited $8 million through Beyond Blue to provide 25  liaison officers to work with local schools and early childhood services in bushfire-affected communities, to coordinate the provision of mental health care and build the capacity of staff, students, and families to prevent and address mental health issues that may arise in response to trauma.

Support will be tailored to help meet local community needs, and may include:

  • Information resources about disaster recovery and positive parenting
  • trauma-informed professional development for educators and other support staff
  • community-based, trauma-informed training sessions for affected parents and carers
  • a Beyond Blue contact liaison officer to coordinate tailored support and strategies to assist local early childhood education and care and school communities with their recovery needs.

This support will complement existing school counselling services including state and territory responses to the bushfires.

The package will be delivered through the Government’s existing national education initiative to support child and youth mental health, Be You. If you would like to find out more – or you think your learning community might benefit from this program, visit the Be You website or download the Bushfire Response Program flyer.

Be You have also developed a resource pack to assist schools and early learning services to support children impacted by the bushfires.

School chaplains

The Australian Government has provided state and territory governments with additional funding for school chaplains to further support the wellbeing of school communities in bushfire-affected areas that have chosen to access this support.

The National School Chaplaincy Program supports the wellbeing of students and school communities. Talk to your chaplain or school leaders for further information. 

Other mental health support for children and students

The Australian Government have developed a fact sheet titled back to school and your child's wellbeing, which contains mental health and wellbeing information and resources.

For families affected by the bushfires, being able to return to work will be an important step in the recovery process.

$5 million for the Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) will be used to support recovery efforts for child care services in communities affected by the recent bushfire disaster.

The funding will ensure child care services in fire affected areas remain viable, and help pay for things like the replacement of damaged playground equipment, or wages for affected staff.

For more information see the Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances page page.

For more information on child care services and emergencies and natural disasters visit the Emergency and Natural Disaster Assistance page.

The Australian Government will help families in bushfire declared areas by exempting them from any Child Care Subsidy (CCS) potential activity test debt for the 2019-20 financial year.

This initiative will help support families in bushfire declared areas that might incur a debt because they have worked fewer hours or participated in fewer hours of activity due to the bushfires. 

No action is required by families at this time. Any potential debt will be identified as part of the 2019-20 financial end of year balancing process.

On 15 January 2020, the Australian Government announced they will deliver an extra $400 to families for each child aged under 16 that is eligible for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP). The payment is in addition to the existing $400 AGDRP (for a total payment of $800) for children and is not subject to income tax.

From 20 January 2020, this additional payment will begin flowing for new applicants. Families of the nearly 20,000 children who have already applied for the AGDRP need not re-apply, their additional payment will follow over the course of next week. 

More information about the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment is available on the Services Australia website.

To help students from bushfire affected communities attend university, the Minister for Education the Hon Dan Tehan MP, has announced the opening of a fourth round of the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships program, for students commencing study in 2020.

1100 scholarships will be available for eligible students in regional and remote Australia, with special consideration given to those affected by drought and bushfire.

Applications for the new round of Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships opened on Monday 20 January.

Other useful links

  • The National Bushfire Recovery Agency (NBRA) is coordinating the national response to help rebuild communities. Stay up to date with what the government is doing to help Australian families, communities, wildlife and business rebuild and recover by following their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • Visit Services Australia for information on Australian Government payments and services for people directly affected by bushfires in disaster declared areas.