Victoria Premier Ted Baillieu
Victoria Minister for Bushfire Response Peter Ryan
Coalition Government Renews Support To 2009 Bushfire Survivors
Victor P Taffa
The Victorian Coalition today announced a series of measures to support the longer-term needs of those impacted upon by Black Saturday and the Gippsland fires, including a new Fire Recovery Unit within government to assist fire-affected individuals, communities and councils.
Premier Ted Baillieu today announced dedicated resources and details of ongoing support for those affected by the 2009 bushfires.
“In the lead up to the second anniversary of Black Saturday, it is important to recognise that many fire-affected communities are still struggling with a range of issues.” Premier Baillieu said.
“As a result, services established in the aftermath of one of Australia’s worst natural disasters need to adapt to the changing needs of the people and communities affected.”
Minister for Bushfire Response Peter Ryan said a new Fire Recovery Unit within Regional Development Victoria, which would operate from 1 July after the wind-down of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority (VBRRA), would serve as a one-stop-shop for those needing assistance to recover and rebuild after the 2009 fires.
“The Fire Recovery Unit will provide a clear point of contact in government for fire-affected individuals, communities and councils and work closely with other agencies leading bushfire recovery projects.” Mr. Ryan said.
“The unit will monitor existing recovery and reconstruction programs and work closely with the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund to distribute funding set aside for the medium to long term community recovery.”
“It will also provide leadership in developing new opportunities in fire-affected communities, particularly those across the Shire of Murrindindi.” Mr. Ryan said.
Other initiatives to support the medium and longer-term recovery of communities include:
- A new Bushfire Community Support Program will be funded through to June 2012, which will include a personal support helpline, bushfire community support workers across key fire-affected communities and targeted funding to continue priority access to drug, alcohol, family violence and men’s counselling programs in Hume Region;
- The continuation of three Community Engagement Coordinators until December 2012 to work across all fire-affected areas;
- A dedicated community resource to support the many local organisations contributing to ongoing recovery of the Kinglake Ranges;
- A new Council Capacity Development Program to assist the ten most affected councils to work with communities to progress recovery. This program will also aim to strengthen communities by helping to build their relationships with local councils;
- A new program to support the ongoing development of communities, by building community leadership capacity, expanding community relationships and providing practical support for those involved in community recovery activities;
- The Rebuilding Advisory Service will continue to support individuals rebuilding their homes into 2011 (operating under the Fire Recovery Unit into 2011 from 1 July).
Premier Baillieu said the new support package came on top of a number of health and counselling services that would continue to be provided in partnership with local councils and community organisations.
“These include disaster-specific counselling services, specialised support groups, such as those dealing with bereavement or youth issues, and a range of community, health service and school-based support.” Premier Baillieu said.
Mr. Ryan said he was also pleased to announce that the Chair of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, Ian Dicker, would have an ongoing role advising the Coalition Government on economic and business recovery.
“In the lead up to the second anniversary of Black Saturday, it is clear bushfire-affected communities need ongoing help to recover and rebuild.” Mr. Ryan said.
“It is vital that the right assistance is in place to help individuals, families, businesses and councils impacted upon by the fires over the coming years.”
“The Coalition is committed to implementing major tourism initiatives and projects including the development of a conference centre for Marysville and redevelopment of the Golf and Bowls club.” Mr. Ryan said.
Mr. Ryan said the additional support would complement the ongoing services provided by the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund for the medium-term recovery.
The Appeal Fund is providing ongoing programs including a scholarship program, burns injury support, new community and cultural facilities in Kinglake and Marysville, youth support, a wellness voucher program, as well as counselling and bereavement support.
The Appeal Fund has also committed up to $16 Million for medium to long term community based projects.
“The Government is ensuring that ongoing support continues to be delivered into the future.” Premier Baillieu said.
“We will never forget those affected by this tragedy and we will continue to monitor services to ensure we are continuing to meet the needs of those recovering.”
The Premier and Mr. Ryan thanked VBRRA for its work overseeing the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Recovery.
VBRRA was established in the aftermath of the fires for a two year period and will transition the oversight of all existing services and programs to other government departments, local councils and not-for-profit groups by the end of March and will cease to operate from the end of June 2011.
Comprehensive information will be provided to all fire-affected communities about how they can continue to receive ongoing support in March.