People directly affected by the bushfire disaster should apply to the Braidwood Life Centre for financial assistance, president David Avery advises.
Through their Community Help Fund, the Centre has more than $160,000 to help bushfire victims. "We're handing out funds to anybody who puts their hand up who is a genuine case for relief," Mr Avery said.
Many families in the region were badly hit by the summer's fires; about 35 families around Nerriga alone lost their homes or accommodation, Mr Avery said, while some now live in sheds or caravans.
Although the Fund has already given $35,000 to deserving cases, not many people have applied for help, Mr Avery said.
"We know lots of people out there should have assistance, but they seem to be shy or proud about admitting they were in trouble, which is sad. We want everybody to have a fair crack at getting help."
The Fund was set up with caps of $1000 for people whose homes were destroyed or badly damaged, and of $500 for people who lost infrastructure (fencing, generators, solar panels or fridges). "A thousand dollars is not a lot of money, but it was a way to say we're concerned and want to help as much as possible," Mr Avery said. Now more money has come in, the committee will review the caps.
The 230 registered 'mozzies' who drove around in utes putting out spot fires received $100 each.
Applying to the Fund is quite simple, Mr Avery said: complete a two-page form available from the Braidwood Community Bank, or by contacting members of the BLC Fund Committee. The applications can be completed in 10 minutes, and actioned straight away. Processing takes two weeks at most.
The fund committee meets weekly to assess applications and authorise payouts. The group of five includes a lawyer, an accountant, representatives from the Braidwood Community Association and Vinnies Braidwood, and Mr Avery himself.
Although set up for bushfire relief, the Community Help Fund will also aid people indirectly affected by the bushfires. One application, for instance, was to remove rubble from a property at the foot of a hill. "The fire decimated the trees and undergrowth," Mr Avery explained. "When it rained, the flood brought down all this mud and pulverized their fence. They needed to get a bobcat in. This chap also has a history of poor health, and couldn't really wield a shovel."
There are no eligibility criteria; recipients might be ratepayers, property owners, or renters. If in doubt whether you qualify for help, submit your application anyway, Mr Avery recommended.
The Community Help Fund was set up with the help of the Braidwood and Bungendore Community Banks. Other businesses and individuals generously donated to the fund, including the Boorowa Community Bank, Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council, World Hope International, the Braidwood Uniting Church, the Braidwood Anglican Church, the Royal Hotel Queanbeyan, and the Nerriga community. One donor alone gave $10,000.
"We've been truly blown away by the generous response of the community and others outside our area," Mr Avery said. "It's very humbling to realise that our community are able to fork out, even though they're battling themselves."
During the bushfires, the Braidwood Life Centre was open every day. The committee is small - only 10 people - but it had a lot of help from the community, including from people who had losses themselves. The Life Centre was inundated with donations of food and clothing, and handed out these donations for four or five weeks.
Since then, the Centre has provided $2000 worth of vouchers to help people obtain groceries, fuel, firewood, milk and meat from the local IGA and other businesses.
Coronavirus, however, means the Life Centre has had to cancel many of its activities (exercise programs, debating, preschool groups) and close its doors. Should the community need any help, phone 0437 989 993 to arrange a meeting.
Contact details of BLC Community Help Fund personnel for application for financial assistance are:
- David Avery 0413 640 373
- Rhyll Tozer 0408 643 115
- Sue Murray 0419 441 048
- Cathy Ffrench 0418 262 011
- David Gray 0448 615 633