Sunday, 26 June 2022

    Survivors struggled for support

    A woman who lost everything in the Dunn’s Road fire says she was initially denied bushfire relief through a charity because she did not have a utilities bill, the Canberra Times reports.

    Professor Sue Townsend and her husband lost their Tumbarumba home on December 31. They had only recently moved into the two-bedroom cottage and hadn’t insured it yet as they planned to renovate.

    When they went to bed on December 30, the fire was near Adelong, around 60 kilometres north. A member of the Rural Fire Service knocked on their door at 2.30am, telling them they had two hours to get out.

    They each managed to get a suitcase of clothes but when they applied for $5000 in aid from the Red Cross, they were knocked back because they did not have a utility bill as proof of address.

    “I spoke to a person on the phone from the Red Cross saying this is ridiculous, your house is burning down, the last thing you think about grabbing is a utilities bill,” Professor Townsend told the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements on Monday.

    The couple later received $20,000 in aid from the Red Cross, after charities received a public lashing for failing to distribute donations fast enough.

    By comparison, Professor Townsend received $1000 from St Vincent de Paul without even applying. Several weeks later, she received another $3000.

    Professor Townsend said she has been luckier than most and is grateful for the aid.

    But in the five months since, she has had to prove her house burnt down at least once a month.

    Professor Townsend said there needed to be better coordination between agencies to prevent people in distress being forced to jump through unnecessary hoops.


    Bushfire royal commission: survivors reveal difficulty accessing charity support (Canberra Times)

    Royal Commission in National Natural Disaster Arrangements